Taxation Nation: Lap Dances in Philly Subject to 5% ‘Amusement Tax’

Posted by on Jul 09, 2013 at 1:56 pm

An amusement tax? For real? Look, guys (and some gals) aren’t getting laps dances for the amusement, but that’s for another story. What we’ve got here in the birthplace of our nation is not only wrong, it’s just downright un-American.

Is there nothing free from taxation any more?

LET’S GIVE CITY HALL credit for ingenuity. After failing to drive up taxes on soda and smokes, the creative geniuses slipped a hootchy-kootchy tax under the radar.

The form of interpersonal social contact known as the lap dance is subject to the city’s 5 percent amusement tax. Who knew? Not the “gentlemen’s clubs,” apparently.

To some, the tax is a stroke of genius, but it’s rubbing the clubs the wrong way.

To lawyer George Bochetto, it is “financial desperation” and the city trying to tax the same thing twice.

Bochetto represents Club Risque and Cheerleaders, two of the clubs squirming under a new tax burden.

According to appeal petitions, Cheerleaders owes $486,482 and Club Risque owes $320,538. The city audited the lap-dance encounters, “then issued an assessment going back five years,” plus interest and penalties, Bochetto says, stripping away the verbiage. “It’s over the top. Unbelievable.”

To learn the city’s position, I called Mark McDonald, the mayor’s spokesman, who says (drumroll): “We do not comment on pending litigation.”

I quibble, arguing that it’s not (yet) in litigation, that the clubs will make their case before the Tax Review Board. “That is an adversarial administration process,” says McDonald, getting the last word.

Actually, the last word may come at the July 23 meeting of the board, the decision of which can be appealed to Common Pleas Court.

There’s actually some interesting back story in the rest of the piece about how girls aren’t actually getting wages to work at these establishments; rather they’re getting paid for their services and kick back some to the owners. Although they do also get a cut of the drinks purchased while offering amusement to the customers. Oh, and if you’re not up to speed on lap dances, here’s  a primer:

The dancers’ earnings come from lap dances, which is an art form consisting of sitting on a guy’s lap and grinding. In the “champagne room,” the male (or female) guest may get to recline on a sofa and have the dancer rub her body against the customer’s, usually for the length of one song being piped in. The general rule is that customers have to keep their mitts off the dancers, but some of the ladies might be a little lenient. Or so I hear, having no firsthand experience (worth mentioning).

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