Why Yoga Classes Are Not Taxed in Washington State

After having some conversations this past weekend, I realized that there is a general confusion out there on whether or not yoga classes are taxed in the state of Washington. As far as I know—as of this writing of April 2010—Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong classes are not taxed, according to Excise Tax Advisory 3003.2009 [PDF] of the Washington State Department of Revenue, issued February 2, 2009, which states:

The Department generally presumes that classes offering the traditional practices of Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong do not constitute “physical fitness services” because physical fitness is a secondary or incidental benefit of these classes, but it is not typically the primary focus.

It has not always been this way. In November of 2008, yoga studios in the state were audited and told that not only do they need to start charging taxes, they also need to pay back taxes. Suzy Green-Cindrich, a yoga teacher who opened Three Trees Yoga after graduating from Pacific Yoga Teacher Training, pushed back at the State with other teachers and studios. Thanks to their effort, the state receded.

From the same Seattle Times article linked to above:

The backlash by the yoga studios made the agency reverse course. “We decided the yoga people had made a very good case that yoga, and similar kinds of things, are not really what most people think of as physical fitness,” Gowrylow [the spokesman for the Department of Revenue] said.

So, thank you Suzy and everyone who fought hard for this realization from our tax and legal system. And thanks to the Washington DoR for this acknowledgement.

Addendum: Jean Massimo of Village Green Yoga alerted me that yoga studios do in fact pay a service tax, but not a sales tax.