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FBT Q&A – Work related preventative health care: In-house massage

Is provision of an in-house therapeutic massage for all employees an exempt fringe benefit?

Question

We are considering providing in-house therapeutic massage for all employees. Is this an exempt fringe benefit pursuant to the ‘work related preventative health care’ exemption?

The preventative health care component will consist of:

  • massage to reduce tightness in muscles and an incidence of sprain or strain and to educate individuals on how to avoid problems with these in the future;
  • massage to minimise stress or the development of any stress related disorders, such as anxiety or depression;
  • treatment of existing muscular strains and sprains and stress reduction with remedial massage.

All services will be conducted directly with the employees.

Answer

Several categories of work-related health and counselling benefits are exempt benefits under the Fringe Benefits Tax system.

Work related preventative health care, is specifically defined and means any form of care provided by, or on behalf of, a medical practitioner, nurse, dentist or optometrist for the purpose of preventing an employee from suffering from an injury or illness relating to the employee’s employment.

The legislation specifically permits exemption only for the purpose of preventing suffering from an injury or illness which has arisen as a result of a work environment. It is also a condition of exemption that the care is provided to all employees with similar work-related risks.

The proposed arrangement at your place of work suggests the ‘form of care’ to be made available is the provision of therapeutic massage sessions to employees, which will be administered by a registered massage therapist. The intended outcome may be to assist in the prevention of possible conditions and diseases that may result from the sedentary nature of the employees’ work.

However, it is also a requirement that the therapeutic massage sessions be provided ‘by’ or ‘on behalf of’ a legally qualified medical practitioner or nurse. Although the legislation specifies the treatment must be administered by or on behalf of or at the direction of a legally qualified medical practitioner, nurse, etc., the treatment need not be administered by such a practitioner himself.

In your proposed plan the qualified massage therapist you engage would not be administering the service at the instruction of a legally qualified medical practitioner, therefore the service would not be eligible within the definition given.

As the arrangement proposed does not satisfy this requirement, the benefits provided to your staff will not qualify for the FBT exemption.

 

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