Tax break clears way for free office showers and gyms

18 January 2018

 

Employers will soon be able to provide office showers and fitness equipment for their workers for free due to a new tax break.

The tax break was announced by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the launch of the latest update of the government’s Healthy Ireland plan to reduce obesity levels.

Details obtained by The Sunday Business Post show that companies who put in a new fitness centre and equipment on their premises can claim back the full cost against their tax bills. They can write off 15 per cent of the cost annually for the first six years and the final 10 per cent in the seventh year.

The new tax break is designed to make it easier for workers to run or cycle to work, and to exercise in their workplace. The Department of Finance has confirmed there is no limit on how much a company can spend on the new office showers and fitness centres.

The Small Firms Association welcomed the tax break as a positive step to encourage employers to provide office fitness centres and showers.

Its assistant director, Linda Barry, said it was a recognition that the line between working life and non-working life was blurring.

“You can’t just leave your fitness to your non-work time. We see huge interest in employee wellbeing from our members,” she said.

Barry said the 100 per cent tax write-off would be attractive for businesses. But she cautioned that it might only be feasible for those with large premises.

“A lot of companies just don’t have space. I imagine you’ll see more take-up from companies who own an entire building,” she said.

The Irish Planning Institute has confirmed that companies do not have to get planning permission to install a fitness centre or shower facilities in their premises. But a spokeswoman said they would have to comply with the normal building regulations.

Company fitness centres can only be used by their workers, and cannot be made available to the general public as well. This is to avoid providing unfair competition to the 700 private sector gyms around the country.

The tax break is also not available to landlords who own office buildings, because only the companies with the actual employees will be eligible.

The same tax break also allows employers to claim back 100 per cent of the cost of building and equipping an on-site creche for their employees.

There is no start date yet for the new tax break, which was provided for in last year’s Finance Act, and there is no official estimate of how much it might cost.

A Department of Finance spokesman said it would be engaging with the European Commission this year to ensure that the scheme is compliant with state aid rules.

Source: Sunday Business Post