By Alissa Fleck
The New York Times recently reported yoga studio owners feel unfairly targeted by city agencies. Three years ago, New York State government proposed regulations requiring schools that trained yoga instructors to obtain licenses to do so. Eventually, yoga studios were exempted from the regulation, but the obstacles for studios only continued from there.
Now, yoga studios in the City are saying the State is looking for any way to get money out of the booming industry. As we reported before at the Press, the State Department of Taxation recently decided to exclude yoga studios in NYC from the 4.5% sales tax implemented on other gyms and fitness centers. This followed a deluge of audits of local yoga studios though, in which the department threatened to charge back taxes on many studios, many of which were completely unaware of the status of the regulation.
City yoga studios say the government harassment does not stop there. The Department of Buildings has fined studios for not having the appropriate permit, reports the Times. Additionally, the Labor Department has gone after studios for declaring instructors independent contractors instead of employees. Studio owners believe these actions are unfair and unreasonable. Declaring an instructor an employee rather than an independent contractor, when that instructor teaches at multiple studios, incurs an enormous amount of burdensome and unnecessary costs.
J. Brown, the owner of Abhyasa Yoga in Brooklyn, told the Times: “[Agencies] think they can reinterpret statuses and apply them to yoga.”
While the sales tax was recently declared not applicable, studios continue to struggle with government agencies over the other issues. This is particularly hard for yoga studios as, while yoga itself may be an increasingly popular industry, “yoga studios operate on shoestring budgets,” Alison West, executive director of Yoga for New York, told the Times.
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