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.