EcoTomics: Blood, sweat and... taxes?
The year is 2028. After a hard day’s work monitoring your firm’s AI robots, you decide to hop in a driverless hover-taxi to the local Wayne Rooney fitness centre and burn off some stress.
You step onto an exercise machine, log into the iRevenue app by scanning the holochip on your wrist and start to work off your tax bill.
The ‘burn off your tax’ initiative was introduced in 2025 by prime minister Eddie Izzard’s government, and is based on the logic that healthier people would be less of a burden on the creaking National Health Service, saving the nation cash in the long run.
The scheme kick-started an exercise boom across the UK, with millions trimming their waistlines and their tax bills, and prompted a raft of similar projects, including tax breaks for blood donations…
Obviously, this cod science fiction is just an attempt to visualise how individuals may interact with taxation in the future. However, while training away your tax bill might seem like fiction, right now in 2018 people are earning ‘currency’ through exercise via the Sweatcoin app.
The London-based app monitors the number of steps you take through your smartphone or device, then assigns reward points in a native currency called ‘Sweatcoins’. The app pays out at a rate of 0.95 Sweatcoins per 1,000 steps taken outdoors. This currency can then be spent at specific retailers in the in-app store, including Graze, Fitbit and Boohoo.com (nope, me neither).
The app recently reached number one in the US App Store ahead of household names like WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat, and recently attracted seed funding in the region of $5.7m from a number of investors.
In the future, the app hopes to evolve the platform so that investors can trade Sweatcoins through exchanges, and co-founder Anton Derlyatka recently told TechCrunch he’d like to “include the ability to pay taxes with Sweatcoin” in the future.
Rewarding so-called ‘positive behaviours’ through tax breaks is not a new thing – Jeffrey Archer was able to trim his bill by £48,000 by donating a statue of the devil to the nation through the cultural gift scheme after all*. However, the coming together of the emerging fitness economy and technological innovation make this proposition especially interesting.
Indeed, at a time when HMRC seems to be cutting back on ways to settle your tax bill, with cheques rumoured to be next on the chopping block, expanding payment methods and tacking them on to the new wellness trend may prove a popular move.
Unfortunately, even if Sweatcoin's ambitions are all fulfilled, as of winter 2017 the average user might expect anywhere from 2p to 6p per Sweatcoin: if you walk or run six miles per day, that’s about 45-50 Sweatcoin per week, so it may be that we need to all take up ultra marathons to make a significant dent in our tax bills.
*see page 99 of Rebecca Cave’s excellent tax rates and tables book for details