Nevada’s Failed $5 Tax on Prostitution

As the sex industry in Nevada, as elsewhere, is thriving amid the financial crisis, state senator Bob Coffin proposed a $5 tax on all acts of prostitution in the state’s legal brothels.

In an article published online for the UK’s Guardian, Melissa Ditmore tackles the failed taxation scheme, and points out the fact that people in the legal, as well as illegal, sex industry do pay taxes.¬† A fact that is largely ignored by the rest of society. While many in Nevada benefit from the substantial licensing fees the brothels pay to rural counties, countless restrictions are imposed on brothel workers, many of which serve to isolate the workers¬† from their local community.

Taxing sex work is not a problem. Sex workers pay taxes like everyone else. Tracy Quan, author of Diary of a Jetsetting Call Girl, and a member of Prostitutes of New York, said: “People outside the industry fantasise about prostitution, and their fantasy includes freedom from normal responsibilities. So one of the escapist myths is that sex workers don’t have to pay taxes. Of course they have to, and if they do not, the penalties are considerable.”

The Nevada counties prefer not to acknowledge the contribution made by licensed prostitution to their bottom line. Some counties and towns impose some extraordinary restrictions on commercial sex workers. The net effect of these regulations is to separate sex workers from the local community. Some jurisdictions require brothel prostitutes to leave the county when they are not working, while others take the opposite tack, forbidding them to leave the brothel where they work. Some do not allow the children of the women who work in the brothels to live in the same area.

Some of the revenue from the proposed tax would have funded new services for prostitutes, including a counselling service. If I were so isolated within the community in which I lived and worked, I just might need that counselling service. The problem is the fact that sex workers are treated as separate and unequal members of their communities. If the tax changed this, it would be cheap at the price.

2 Responses

  1. No generalisation about what sex workers do can possibly be true. If you don’t have rights to live and work in a place, you don’t pay taxes, obviously. But apart from migrants, the desire to avoid paying taxes is well known in both Germany and the Netherlands, among citizens who have rights. And I just posted a story from Sweden about webcam workers who don’t pay taxes:http://www.nodo50.org/Laura_Agustin/webcam-girls-virtual-sex-tourism-and-the-tax-man

  2. > This tax failed because it was totally ridiculous and unworkable.
    > How is it that men who proposed this tax expect that the (female) workers are going to enforce and collect this tax for the state and then have the state give back the resource to the workers in terms of state sanctioned counciling service?
    >
    > The main problem with the ‘tax system’ is like any other in that it’s arbitrarily applicatied and enforced.
    > The true state is that brothel workers, like the rest of the sex industry, collects the money off the customers and the workers ought to be the ones who issue the brothels the 1099 forms at the end of year not the other way around.
    >
    > The current system lies about the actual state of the brothel owner/worker relationship. The brothels demand the workers turn over all of their earnings to the brothel, who then takes what they want and returns what they want to the workers, there by allowing all sorts of arbitrary non negotiated fees and fines to be levied on the brothel workers without their consent.
    > This form of systemic fraud could easily be stopped by organizing workers and informing them of their labor rights to organize, be in association, and collectively bargain those ‘independent contractor’ contracts that the brothel owners manufacture and make the workers sign in order to gain access to accommodations (out in the middle of the Nevada desert) and customers which results in waving all the workers rights.
    >
    > Maxine Doogan
    > Erotic Service Providers Union
    >

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