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Fitness credit benefits affluent kids: study

Canada's fitness credit benefits wealthy families the most, a new study finds.

Canada's fitness credit for kids benefits wealthy families the most, a new study suggests.

Canada's fitness tax credit (CFTC), introduced in 2007, is intended to provide families with a tax break to encourage young people to register in fitness programs. The idea was to create a financial incentive for youngsters from less affluent families as well as prosperous families to become more physically active.

Researchers at the University of Alberta set out to determine who ended up with the biggest benefit. They designed an internet-based panel in March 2009 with 2,135 Canadians and polled them.
The study's authors note that while 63 per cent of parents from low income households reported spending zero to less than $100 on their child's fitness registrations, 76 per cent of parents in the highest-income quartile spent more than $100, with 31 per cent spending $500 or more. ((CBC))

Of those surveyed, 1,004 parents with children aged two to 18 years of age were asked if their children were enrolled in a fitness program — such as dance or sports — what the costs of the program were, whether they were aware of the fitness tax credit, if the family had claimed the credit and whether it planned to claim it in an upcoming year.

Fifty-four per cent of parents reported that their child was registered in an organized fitness program, while 55.5 per cent said they knew of the tax credit. However, only 26.1 per cent had claimed the credit and 33.1 per cent planned to claim it in 2008.

High-income parents most use credit

Only 28.2 per cent of parents in the lowest income quartile claimed the credit for the 2007 tax year, while approximately 55 per cent of parents in the highest income quartile had claimed it.

"We found household income was a significant factor in whether Canadian parents were more likely to report their child being in organized PA [physical activity], and if the parent was more likely to be aware of and claim the CFTC," reads the study.

"It appears a tax credit such as the CFTC will only benefit those people who can afford to pay the costs of registration for a PA program and carry that burden through to the end of the tax year." 

Yet the Canada Revenue Agency told CBC News on Thursday that the study's findings do not match its findings.

Participation rate not great

According to Annette Robertson, press secretary with the federal finance minister in Ottawa, 1.4 million Canadian families claim the fitness credit, with 40 per cent of those having family incomes of less than $50,000 and only 18 per cent having incomes over $100,000.

"We’re at the forefront of encouraging children to be physically active – that’s something Canadians should be proud of," she said.  "The tax credit had only been in place for two tax years and already we have seen it grow in popularity with more than 1.4 million parents claiming it a year." 

The study's authors note that while 63 per cent of parents from low-income households reported spending nothing to less than $100 on their children's fitness registrations, 76 per cent of parents in the highest-income quartile spent more than $100, and 31 per cent spent $500 or more.

The researchers found that only 15.6 per cent of parents said the credit had increased their children's participation in physical activity programs.

According to the authors, roughly 87 per cent of Canadian children fail to meet national guidelines of 90 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on a daily basis.

The study was published in the July issue of BMC Public Health.

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