Meditate on This: The Tax Man is Coming After NYC’s Yoga Studios

And teachers. And of course, students. But are yogis trying to bend the law to their will?

528262 10150765523482150 215397747149 11567767 2086379458 n Meditate on This: The Tax Man is Coming After NYCs Yoga StudiosInhale. Now, exhale. Now inhale again. Think Yoga is deserving of relief from the capital-T Tax Man? Might be time to stop holding your breath.

Yes, New York is coming after it’s beloved yogis, and all the supposedly blissed-out folks who practice the ancient leg-bendy ritual fitness of choice.

Last year, after New York State’s Education Department attempted to subject Yoga Studios to licensing regulations—in which fees are pulled from making yoga instructors become “teachers,” thus generating revenue for the state—the “Yoga Bill” was passed exempting yoga and martial arts studios from state educational certification.

Now, the state’s trying a new tactic to tax Yoga studios: auditing them under the claim that they should be subject to the same kinds of tax (4.5%) and regulations as a fitness studio, as opposed to a dance or movement studio, which yoga studios lay claim to being more akin to. They’re also gunning to get yoga studios to treat their teachers—currently independent contractors—as employees. Finally, they’re trying to subject them to the idea that they are indeed fitness studios, which would require licensing fees for the spaces they are housed in.

The nonprofit that lobbied to get the original Yoga Bill passed last year—Yoga for NY—fights off these claims:

Yoga classes are not specifically listed among the services and classes that are taxable. The matter is therefore open to interpretation. But this could mean adding close to $1.00 to a $20 class, a cost that gets passed on to the student…One studio is being sued for three years of back taxes…While every yoga studio should look out for the welfare of its teachers, almost no studio but the very largest could easily survive when burdened with the thousands of dollars in extra cost that [turning independent contractors into employees and certifications] would represent.

To be fair, this is all true: Yoga could theoretically become—like cigarettes, and soda—much more expensive to this city. That said, Yoga looks like a pretty exceptional way to make a living avoiding some of the more foreboding taxes of New York City businesses even remotely like it have to face. Or it did. Until now.

What will New York’s Yogis do? With any luck: Let slip the downward dogs of war with the tax man! For more information, the fight lives “om” here.

fkamer@observer.com | @weareyourfek