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Tax-Dodging Contortions

by on August 7, 2012

Yoga could only be made worse by the people who do it. Normal humans who enjoy the activity should be aware of the perception created by their affectedly complacent classmates.

The aspiration to become one with the universe at a strip mall space decorated with mysterious deity sculptures might be the silliest, shallowest, and phoniest aspiration to personal growth that doesn’t involve Tony Robbins. And now the fans of spirituality through sitting cross-legged get to pursue the transcendent embodiment of Enya’s music tax-free.

Normal people who enjoy activities such as football viewing and lager consumption already didn’t want to spend time with the discipline’s smug adherents. Now, white people who dig the superficial trappings of Hinduism are just going to be further enabled by avoiding a levy that applies to similar businesses. Being one with the universe allows you to charge a tax rate of zero:

Is yoga keeping you fit?  The state Department of Taxation and Finance doesn’t think so.

Yoga studios in New York City are exempt from paying city sales tax because yoga isn’t officially considered exercise, state taxation officials announced Tuesday.

“We looked into the history and origins of yoga and found that it was more meditative and spiritual rather than fitness,” said Geoffrey Gloak, spokesman for the state Department of Taxation and Finance, which administers sales tax on the city’s behalf.

They’re not class fees anymore: it’s just a tithe. Expect such semantic-based gymnastics now that the government is deciding what qualifies as belief in a higher power.

The physical component does more for attendees than even achieving moksha could. Sure, yoga is not exercise: that’s why you see so many fat practitioners. Purveyors of yoga huts can’t cite the lack of steak as the sole factor in the slim look. Everyone else can blame the state for maddeningly frustrating rules that amount to nothing more than value judgments:

That focus on spirituality sets yoga studios apart from facilities that have to pay taxes, like “a weight control salon, health salon, or gymnasium,” according to state guidelines. But if a yoga class is taught inside a gym or fitness studio they will have to pay taxes, officials said.

Location apparently saps spirituality. Alternately, fitness studios should add the line “we do yoga” to their signs if they want to save a bundle when it comes to funding Albany’s nonsense. Genuine outposts of phony mysticism already peddle the trick:

Earlier this year, the finance agency began doing audits on yoga studios and threatened to charge years of back taxes at 4.5 percent per year, according to reports.

Charging people what they owe is bad karma. Opposition to high taxes and excessive governmental involvement in our lives is embodied by the principle of charging every company the same rate. A business should have to pay the same percentage no matter what goods or services they offer, including Eastern stretching hour.

True consciousness would come in the form of low rates for all instead of Albany deciding which enterprise’s mission consists of looking for a broader meaning to life. Entering the realm of picking what counts as a house of worship and what is a more pedestrian outpost built for worship of nothing more than the dollar is fine as long as one thinks it’s the government’s job to decide what constitutes a religion. The Worship Inspection Patrol should slap a “Coexist” sticker  on any church that passes their examination.

Dissenting from the government’s arbitrary power to tax based on how ardently a business is dedicated to the supernatural has nothing to do with opposing yoga on principle, although it remains fun to taunt practitioners of sanctimonious hippie body posing. Yogis should have to pay because they’re running a company like any other, not be exempt because of their silly hawking of faux enlightenment.

But at least a ridiculous tax break that effectively subsidizes those suburbanites who in turn prop up the rolled-up mat, Earth tone garment, and hybrid vehicle industries could inspire a business idea. Specifically, gyms should make patrons pray before using the weight rack. Their customers should also sign a contract requiring them to engage in the minimum length of meditation that the state approves so they can reduce the company’s assessment. I can already feel my chakra opening.

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