COLUMBIA — Columbia yoga studios are collecting signatures to support the abolishment of a sales tax on yoga, Pilates and similar classes.
Current Missouri law requires yoga studios to charge a 4 percent sales tax. The bill identified the classes as entertainment, a viewpoint Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis, doesn't agree with. Her opposition led to her sponsorship of an amended bill.
“Yoga has such a huge spiritual aspect,” Bray said. “I thought the law wasn’t written well enough. It just doesn’t make sense.”
Ken McRae, owner of alleyCat Yoga, said he was outraged that Missouri law classified yoga as entertainment.
“The basis upon which the tax is being applied is incorrect,” McRae said. “Yoga is a spiritual practice that doesn't tell you how to practice spirituality, but it opens a door to explore all religions."
He said he considers the practice a spiritual influence and a way of life, not a tool for amusement. McRae is assisting the cause by making petitions available at his studio that support Bray's amendment.
Linda Lutz, owner of Elm Street Yoga, said she is irritated with the strain the tax has put on her as a small business owner.
“It’s very unorganized and disruptive for me as a one-person business,” she said. “I resent (the bill) because it created a lot of extra work for me.”
If the bill is amended, Lutz has promised clients to credit any previously paid taxes to their accounts. She said she doesn’t care about the exchange of money as much as she does the misunderstandings the bill has created.
She also described yoga as a spiritual, holistic experience that can prevent injuries. Although the National Institutes of Health recognizes yoga as an alternative complementary medicine, the notion persists that classes are taken for amusement.
“To say the government is taxing us because we’re an entertainment venue is crazy,” Lutz said. “We’re not the same as going to a football game or an arcade.”
Bray has asked for a hearing to move the proposed amendment forward. She said she has already received considerable support from communities.
“I have been here for 19 years, almost always working on a tax committee, so I have a long history with taxation,” Bray said. “I know when people are affected, and they’re grateful for the effort I’m making.”