Ireland Active is proposing a number of incentives to include an Employee Exercise Scheme

SEPTEMBER 29th, 2020: Ireland Active is today calling on Government for tax relief measures, grants and a VAT rate reduction for the leisure, health and fitness sector as part of the key asks in their pre-Budget 2021 submission. As the national representative body for the sector, Ireland Active is asking for these measures to be introduced to ensure the survival of gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools around the country.

Ireland Active believes it is critical for these measures to be implemented for the future viability of the industry, which – prior to the Covid-19 pandemic – catered for one million Irish people being active every week. They are calling on Government to use the proposed tax incentives to ensure this viability, one of which includes the Employee Exercise Scheme, which is modelled on the hugely successful Cycle to Work and Travel TaxSaver schemes. Ireland Active states that an Employee Exercise Scheme could help achieve long-term health benefits for employees nationwide, as well as promoting a healthy work/life balance through the increased participation in regular exercise. This scheme would therefore not only be a substantial boost to the nation’s overall health and mental well-being, but it would also have the additional benefit of providing some much-needed security and cash flow certainty for the estimated 700 public and private commercial leisure, health & fitness facilities potentially eligible under the scheme.

The 10-point pre-Budget 2021 submission also features a proposal to expand the existing ‘Stay and Spend Scheme’ – due to come into effect on October 1st – to include exercise activities in commercial sports facilities. The scheme would include spend of up to €625, with a tax credit of up to €125. Other measures Ireland Active is calling on Government for include a commercial rent relief scheme, the reduction of the sports facilities VAT rate to 5% for 2021, and a €5m swimming pool resilience fund for 2021, to take account of the ongoing challenges and associated costs for pools remaining open during the pandemic.

Speaking at the announcement of Ireland Active’s pre-Budget 2021 submission, Conn McCluskey, CEO of Ireland Active said: “Tax measures can be an effective way to stimulate growth in participation in sport and physical activity and one only has to look at the Cycle to Work Scheme for evidence of this. We believe a similar scheme, aimed at leisure and gym membership and exercise programmes, would help to stimulate spending for the sector and sustain businesses. We are calling on Government to support a sector that gets over 1 million people active each week in Ireland. The average income loss for the sector this year is 65%, with most facilities having no income during the period from March to August. Our budget proposals will help deliver on the actions contained in the National Sports Policy, while also helping people recover both mentally and physically from the effects of Covid-19 – which is particularly needed as we move into the autumn and winter period and most physical activity moves indoors.”

CEO of Swan Leisure and Ireland Active Board member, Clodagh Kilmurray stated: “Government support is vital. If we don’t have it, we won’t be able to survive and that’s across the industry. A lot of my colleagues in the industry say they won’t be able to survive past three to six months unless we receive further support.”