Friday, 6 February 2009

Should prostitutes pay taxes?

Conservative MP thinks prostitutes should be exempt from paying taxes. Not sure she realises it, but in arguing against the new laws which would allow the authorities to keep 25% of the proceeds from a police raid that is more or less what she is saying. And the Lord is on her side. (No, not any of those ones). She says it will make sex workers more likely to end up working on the streets, and put their lives in danger: even, it is suggested, drive some to their deaths.

I don't want to see the criminalisation of women in such a situation, although I've blogged on here before about the action I'd like to see taken to reduce kerb-crawling and on-street prostitution. But I can't see why anyone should be exempt from paying taxes*. I wonder if Nadine thinks they should be prosecuted for not filing tax returns instead? (Not trying to score points here - I'm genuinely interested in where this line of thinking logically takes us).

*I'm sure there are plenty of other places you can blog about corporate tax evasion/ avoidance, not least on the Guardian website. But let's not get onto that here.


Dave H said...

The difficulty is that 'prostitute' encompasses upmarket escort agency workers earning hundreds an hour (like Belle de Jour -it is my recollection she did pay taxes), drug-addicted streetwalkers, Pamela Bordes (at least formerly. She was well before your time of course but I'm sure in a busy place like the HoC some of your longer-serving colleagues can remember bumping into her), trafficked under-age Eastern Europeans, students financing their way through university working by in lapdancing clubs and earning extra tips, specialist friends of Max Mosley, single mums supplementing their benefits by working in massage parlours and Soho walk-ins, etc. etc.

That's a diverse bunch to come up with a single rule for.

Kerry said...

I don't think it's that difficult - shouldn't anyone who earns enough pay tax? Is there a difference between a woman earning money this way and someone doing casual work on a building site or in a bar?

pagar said...


You can't have it both ways. Of course there is an argument that it is unfair earnings from prostitution are not taxed but you cannot legitimately expect to levy taxes from activities that you criminalise.

Decriminalisation would also get the activity off the streets and promote the safety of all those involved.

Throw off your puritan instincts and support a practical solution.

Kerry said...

Selling sex isn't actually a criminal offence, neither is buying it (at the moment).

I'm kind of playing devil's advocate on this anyway... (at which point I would insert a smiley face if I did such things).

Kerry said...

Of course the other element to this is that if proper criminals are caught with lots of dosh, then it can ALL be seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Not just 25%- so an entirely different concept at play.

DaveA said...

To answer the question I disagree that prostitutes should not pay taxes. I will have to grit my teeth on this one but as a right wing libertarian, here is a clear case where central government and local authorities have a clear role to play.

I think prostitution should be made legal. The LAs can issue licenses for a fee, be open to inspection and the trade opened up to the free market. For those who work outside the law the full majesty of fines and jails should be imposed on the disgusting end of the market where young girls are trafficed and subjected to inhuman abuse.

I suppose we all have our hypocracies on prostitution like we don't want a brothel next door to us, or not wanting our daughters or even sons to be prostitutes, but a consensual, hygenic and safe environment I think is the best way forward for society.

You Kerry, the Labour Party and government can offer much value here.

timbone said...

I will get to the tax bit asap, but first I will try to briefly clear up some misconceptions. Not that long ago, I spent some years doing voluntary work with homeless people in Manchester. I obviously conversed with street prostitutes. I also attended several talks about prostitution in general. Let me clear up a few points. All working girls are not disease ridden drug addicts. For the sake of convenience, I will group working girls into three categories, street girls, those who work for an agency, (parlours and escort), and those who are independant.
It is safe to say that generally speaking it is the street girls who are desperate and very often drug addicts. The parlour girls, escorts and independants are in most cases a different category - following a chosen profession, not drug addicts, and leading a normal life.

Now onto the question of tax. Forget the street girls, who are the minority, and have desperate social needs. As for the other working girls, they are the same as many other people providing a service to an agency, eg supply teachers, tele marketing personnel, or sole traders like plumbers or electricians. They are self employed and it is up to them whether they do the honest thing and do a tax return or not.