I have a love-hate relationship with tax loopholes.
I’m a big fan of the flat tax, in part because I hate when powerful interest groups use their insider connections to get special treatment. This corrupt process helps explain why the tax code is now a 74,000-page monstrosity.
I want to get rid of all preferences, deductions, credits, deductions, exclusions, and shelters, including one that benefit me such as the home mortgage interest deduction, the charitable contributions deduction, and the state and local tax deduction.
On the other hand, I favor just about anything that lets people keep more of their money. Loopholes are escape hatches that people can use to protect themselves from the grasping claws of the IRS.
The bottom line is that we should only get rid of loopholes if every penny of potential new revenue is used to finance lower tax rates.*
Now that we’ve covered some basics, let’s stop being serious and boring and look at what has to be the strangest tax loophole in the United States.
And it wasn’t even concocted by the crowd in Washington. The award for strangest tax loophole goes to the politicians of Nevada, who decided at some point not to apply the sales tax to prostitution.
Here are some of the details from the New York Daily News.
The tax man may soon be visiting a few Nevada brothels. …Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D-North Las Vegas) says the bill would target events and businesses that have either been deemed exempt from state sales taxes or have simply been overlooked. Those operations include brothels, which Nevada lawmakers have been hesitant to tax out of fear that doing so would further legitimize the stigmatized, but legal trade. …George Flint, the director of the Nevada Brothel Association, fears that so-called houses of ill repute could not handle an 8% tax on money spent at brothels, and has proposed a $5 entrance fee instead.
As a libertarian, I suppose I should be impressed. Not only is this “victimless crime” legal, but it isn’t taxed!
But as an observer of politics, I’m completely perplexed. Normally, politicians love to impose “sin taxes” on behaviors that are seen as unseemly. It’s sort of a win-win situation for them. They get to collect more revenue while telling us that it’s for our own good.
This helps explain why there are high taxes on things such as booze, cigarettes, energy, and fast food.
So why have Nevada politicians overlooked (at least up to now) the chance to tax prostitution?
I suppose I could make a joke that they didn’t want to tax the things that they consume, but I’m being serious.
Are the lobbyists for brothels super effective? Well, they probably do have the best holiday parties, but is that why prostitution isn’t taxed?
Beats me. Sounds like a good opportunity for public policy research.
*Another concern is that many politicians don’t understand the difference between a tax loophole such as ethanol and a tax penalty such as double taxation, so their version of tax reform could make bad policies even worse.
P.S. Since this post is about taxes and prostitution, I can’t resist sharing this bit of humor.
P.P.S. Speaking of prostitution, did you know that British taxpayers finance sex trips to Amsterdam?
P.P.P.S. You won’t be surprised to learn that climate-change ideologues claim that global warming causes prostitution.
P.P.P.P.S. You also won’t be surprised to learn that the Germans have figured out very creative ways of taxing prostitution.