Budget 2020: Tax incentives for Yoga are need of the hour

Budget 2020, Budget 2020 India, Union Budget 2020 India, Budget 2020-21, Budget 2020 and Yoga, Suggestions for budget 2020, budget expectations

Budget 2020: In the last five years, the government has exhibited a keen interest in the revival of Yoga (Reuters)By Shilpa Ambre

Budget 2020 and Yoga:
As per recent statistics, by 2020, India is expected to be one of the youngest major economies in the world. Data from the World Economic Forum indicates that over 77% of Indians will be under the age of 45 by the next decade. However, despite being one of the youngest countries, we are also the most unfit with estimates suggesting that 1 in every 3 Indians are medically unfit and suffer from preventable lifestyle disorders. 

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Thanks to increased awareness over the past decade, there has been a gradual shift in this trend and health and wellness are becoming increasingly main-stream today. This sector will, therefore, witness a massive boom in the years ahead. As per estimates by FICCI and EY, the industry is expected to be valued at Rs 1.5 trillion in 2020. The wellness industry has also evolved into a more organized sector. People, especially the millennials, swear by apps making yoga and other fitness-related applications more accessible to them. They want to not only look good physically but also have better emotional health. 

In the last five years, the government has exhibited a keen interest in the revival of Yoga. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has personally taken a lot of interest in positioning Yoga as a universal exercise that can help people stay fit, look good and be healthy. In his attempt to do so, several new initiatives have been introduced by the government to help encourage this holistic practice.

  • Yoga has been made a mandatory topic which is being taught to help young India stay fit and healthy.
  • Since 2015, Yoga classes, Yoga teachers and training institutes running as charitable trusts have been exempted from paying goods and service tax (GST) even is the gross turnover exceeds the threshold limit of Rs 10 lakh.
  • In 2018, the government launched the "Hum Fit Toh India Fit" campaign encouraging people to take up Yoga and other forms of fitness activities in order to stay healthy.

While these have been welcome and have helped encourage players like SARVA who are ensuring that there is a more organized and holistic approach to the concept of Yoga, we still have a long way to go. Preventive health and wellness is the need of the hour for everyone, given the high instances of disease and lifestyle-induced illnesses in our country. In order for holistic health to be made more attractive to consumers, it is important that the tax component on commercially-run Yoga practices and institutes be revisited in Union Budget of 2020 since Yoga can help address chronic medical ailments and fill the gaps in traditional healthcare.

Under section 80D of the Income Tax Act of 1961, taxpayers can claim tax deductions on health checkups and health premiums; preventive wellness, however, is still placed under a high tax bracket. In the Union Budget for 2020, however, we hope that it goes beyond providing tax deductions to those getting back to good health after falling sick, and also supports and incentivize those who take care of their own fitness. Budget 2020 could potentially include exemption on availing of fitness services such as memberships to gyms, fitness studios, commercially run Yoga centres, etc. 

The Union Budget should also be drafted in a way that encourages more players like SARVA who adopt a tech-oriented approach to reach consumers far and wide by providing institutional funding and subsidies. This is because innovative, tech-based solutions are leading India towards becoming a fit and healthy nation. 

(The author is the Chief Financial Officer of SARVA-Yoga, Mindfulness, and Beyond. Views expressed in the article are personal.)