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Archive for March 18th, 2009

Making youth sports less taxing

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In Australia, there’s a movement to get tax breaks to help pay your kids’ fees for participating in organized athletics.

From the Northern Star, the newspaper in Lismore, New South Wales (three hours’ drive south of Brisbane and 10 hours north of Sydney):

Far North Coast parents and sporting identities have called on the Federal Government to broaden tax deductions for working families to include affiliation fees to sporting clubs, thereby encouraging participation, reducing the impact on the hip pocket and combating childhood obesity.

The Federal Government allowed the associated costs of sending children to school, such as uniforms and computers, to be a tax deduction in sweeping changes last year and many believe sport is the next frontier.

Dr David Arthur, a senior lecturer at the College of International Sports Management at Southern Cross University, says the cost of sport is becoming prohibitive for many families.

“Making sporting fees a tax break is a great idea,” he said.

“You could possibly tie that in with the private health system somehow, I don’t know. It would help the government to combat poor health and allow more people to have their kids involved in sport.

2256838871_5a376632c9_mWithout a tax break the child on the right will never resemble the one on the left. Think of the little people.

Tax dollars to support your neighbor’s kid on the travel baseball team? It’s closer than you’d think. Specifically, north of the border. Beginning Sept. 1, 2007, Canada instituted a tax break on the first $500 of fees for a child’s approved sports and activities. Basically, if you’re a Canadian parent, you get a 15 percent discount come tax time on that first $500 — and that’s per child, not total. And that’s just from the federal government. Depending on your province, you can get a similar credit at that level. In Nova Scotia, the credit extends to adult sports as well. There is a movement to get the child sports credit extended to adults nationwide, figuring it’ll save at least 135 million loonies a year in health costs.

773160242_623bd5c1c1The money we save can buy us more beer, backbacon and smokes, eh? Koo-LROO-kookookookookoo-KOOOOO!!!!

Canada is not the only country to give out these kind of breaks. For example, in Malaysia you can take a tax deduction on the cost of your sporting equipment.

The Canadian plan has its flaws. The $500 available to deduct isn’t much, given how much some sports will run you. It also doesn’t factor in equipment purchases or travel. At least in the first year of  the deduction’s existence,  it did nothing to turn around plummeting youth sports participation rates or reduce obesity, but I haven’t found any formal studies done recently to find out whether anything has changed since then. Plus, even if a deduction did increase youth sports participation, at least in the United States obesity rates have risen in parallel with participation rates. So merely increasing participation doesn’t guarantee reduced childhood obesity.

However, maybe those Canuckleheads are on to something. In the United States we allow owners of college sports stadium skyboxes to deduct 80 percent of the expense of owning it for the purpose of not watching the game. It would seem our tax breaks would be wiser handled by allowing, say, parents to deduct 80 percent of the expense of youth sports fees and equipment. (The recently passed stimulus package, like the current tax code, was very forthright that no tax breaks or money should be used to pay for athletics. Though the current code is the one that counts skyboxes as an educational contribution, and thus deductible.)

If nothing else, a tax break would help parents who are being priced out of leagues, particularly in this economy, and put our tax money to a more positive use. By god, are we going to let Australia beat us to the punch?

(Um, yes, probably.)

Written by rkcookjr

March 18, 2009 at 12:55 pm