WASHINGTON — The Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act was reintroduced in Congress in late March as House bill No. 1748 and Senate bill No. 1038. The bills are identical, says Amy Bantham, government relations manager with the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, which has lobbied for the bill each of the years it has been introduced.

“I think that we're optimistic about this year in particular, given the increased attention placed on the rising cost of health care and the obesity crisis,” Bantham says.

The WHIP Act would allow for the balanced tax treatment of health club memberships as an employee benefit, allowing employers to deduct the cost of providing health club benefits to their workers and excluding the wellness benefit from being considered additional income for employees.

Under current tax law, businesses are permitted to deduct the cost of onsite exercise facilities, and the benefit is not taxed as additional income to the employee. If an employer provides the same benefit at an offsite facility, however, the employer cannot take advantage of the tax deduction and must bear the administrative costs for complying with rules of the Internal Revenue Service. Meanwhile, employees who take advantage of the benefit must pay income tax on the value of the subsidy.

Last year, 44 Democrats and 66 Republicans co-sponsored the WHIP Act.