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Jennie Finch discusses her support for the PHIT Act, which may make race fees and equipment tax-deductible.
For many triathletes, totaling up a year’s worth of expenses can be cringe-inducing. Between race fees, equipment and gym memberships, the sport can take up a sizeable chunk of a person’s budget. Pending legislation may soon allow some of those expenses to be tax-deductible, thanks to PHIT America, a health and fitness organization focused on the “pandemic of inactivity.”
The organization is sponsoring National Health Through Fitness Day on Capitol Hill today, March 5, to lobby Congressional members on two important pieces of pending legislation: the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP), which provides grants to support innovative physical education methods; and the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act, a Federal tax law that would allow the deduction or use of pre-tax dollars to cover expenses related to sports, fitness and other physical activities.
To help put a face on the cause, several Olympians, World Championship athletes and other stars will be joining on the Hill—including Jennie Finch, a two-time Olympic medalist in softball. The former pitcher, who recently traded softball cleats for a wetsuit and aerobars, spoke with Triathlete about the PHIT Act and its impact.
Triathlete: How did you get involved with National Health through Fitness Day?
Finch: Mizuno (a sponsor) is a big supporter of National Health through Fitness Day and I’ve had the opportunity to participate in this event on Capitol Hill in the past. It’s such an exciting day to speak with lawmakers and take part in the process. Working with amazing athletes from different sports is an amazing experience.
I’m so passionate about sports, especially as a mom getting kids playing at a young age, that coming here was an easy choice for me. We’re here to support two pieces of legislation to get Americans moving: the PHIT Act and PEP (Physical Education Program).
Triathlete: What elements of the PHIT Act and PEP are you most excited about, and why?
Finch: For PHIT, being able to use pre-tax dollars for physical activity purchases is huge! That’s such a motivator for parents to sign their kids up for camps or for adults to work with a personal trainer. Living a healthy lifestyle can be expensive and it takes commitment. The PHIT Act is just one more step to making it easier to be more fit and healthy.
PEP is a long-standing grant for schools to maintain their physical education programs. Times are tough and PE is often one of the first things to be cut from the budget. It’s proven that when kids are active, they perform better in school. What better way to invest in future generations than this?
Triathlete: Triathlon, as you know, is not a cheap sport! What kinds of things would they be able to deduct if the PHIT Act is passed?
Finch: No, it’s not cheap! Once the PHIT Act is passed, you will be able to purchase fitness equipment through the pre-tax medical account. While you won’t be able to purchase apparel or running shoes, you can use it for sport-specific items such as helmets and goggles. You can also use some funds toward larger purchases like a treadmill or bicycle. The best part is that even race entry fees are eligible!
Triathlete: Have you talked to other triathletes about the PHIT Act? What has been their response so far?
Finch: Surprisingly, even though this act has bipartisan support and would help out so many athletes and aspiring athlete, it doesn’t really seem like many people know about it. That’s why I’m traveling to Capitol Hill! It’s such an exciting piece of legislation, I feel like this will encourage a lot of Americans to get active—and maybe even become involved in a sport they never thought to try, like triathlon.
Triathlete: Fill in the blank: If I could deduct one triathlon-related expense on my taxes this year, it would be ___________, because _________.
Finch: A treadmill, because I’d love one in my house. It’s hard to find time to get away for a long run with three little ones. A treadmill would let me get in my workout while keeping an eye on the kids.
Triathlete: Your passion for this initiative is amazing! What can people do if they want to follow in your footsteps and inspire others to get active, too?
Finch: I’m passionate about sports and fitness, I’ve been involved my whole life! I’m always looking for new opportunities to help others get inspired to become better people. I’m a big believer in leading by example. By living your life to the fullest, you inspire those around you to do the same!
For updates on the PHIT Act, or to write a letter of support to your congressional representatives, visit PHITAmerica.org.