corporate gyms and tax deductions

If you have been thinking about the fitness of your employees and the possibility of a gym or other athletic facility, then you need to know the tax rules. To be tax deductible, your gym or other athletic facility must be primarily for the benefit of your employees—other than employees who are officers, shareholders, or other owners who own a 10 percent or greater interest in the business, or other highly compensated employees.

For the 10 percent ownership test, the law treats an employee as owning any interest owned by a member of his or her family. Family includes brothers and sisters, spouses, ancestors (such as parents and grandparents), and lineal descendants (such as children and grandchildren).

The highly compensated group consists of employees who earned more than $120,000 for the preceding year. The gym or other athletic facility must benefit the rank-and-file employee group more than the owner and the highly compensated group. Think of this primary-benefit test as a 51-49 test.

This means that the rank-and-file employee group must use the facility on more days than the owner and highly compensated group does. To see if you pass the 51-49 test, look only at days of use of the facility.

Example: Rank-and-file employees use the gym 235 days during the year and you, the business owner, use it 137 days. The gym passes the 51-49 test; accordingly, it’s deductible as an employee recreational facility.