Big Government Doesn’t Like Yoga!


Turn up the steam in that hot yoga session because this controversy is getting hot. That was a terrible pun; I apologize. But seriously, there’s a bit of a conflict going on between New York State and the yoga studios.

About three years ago, Albany threatened to force yoga studio instructors to obtain licenses for their work – most of these instructors consider themselves ‘personal trainers’ or independent contractors so a license is not technically needed. Well, the yoga studios lobbied against the rule, arguing that obtaining these licenses would run the instructors out of business. Mind you, the yoga business rakes in an estimated $6 billion a year. In the end, the yoga studios were granted an exemption from the taxation. And all was at peace.
Fast forward three years. Once again, the State (and, now, the City as well) is at it again. According to the folks in the yoga industry, three separate agencies are involved: they include the New York State Department of Taxation, the New York City Department of Buildings and the New York State Department of Labor.
And they’re in hot pursuit of the workout’s treasure chest.
Here’s what each agency is going after:
According to the New York Times, in April 2011, the Department of Taxation instilled a rule that yoga institutions, as well as Turkish baths and centers for weight-loss, would be expected to charge a 4.5% sales tax. The rule was eventually overturned for yoga studios due to its spiritual foundation but, now, the Department is acting like that never happened. To much confusion, some studios in New York have been fined for the sales tax.
The City’s Building Department has gone after the permits of these studios, fining two for not having the proper paper work.
And the people over at the Labor Department are up in arms about the personal trainer point mentioned before. A few studios have been audited for this reason as well.
The thing is, since the fight first began three years ago, the whole yoga phenomenon has rapidly grown in size, leading to heftier profits and much more attention from the State and the City. Who would’ve known that yoga would become a hot button issue.
The main group representing the yoga industry is a statewide lobbying collective known as Yoga for New York. At their meeting the other day, they all sat across the floor cross-legged and chanted to Ganesha. And then, presumably, they got down to business, discussing the serious monetary matters at hand.
Needless to say, negotiations might take a while.