Sin Taxes

I’m not sure where vice president Joe Biden is getting his information, but he seems rather confident that a tax can be levied against “violent media.” He may want to check with the Supreme Court, which has ruled against regulating violent video games and found taxing certain varieties of speech differently to be a violation of the First Amendment.

Possibly Biden just got carried away with the jovial spirit of censorship pervading the post-Sandy Hook political climate. Or maybe he was just in an overly-agreeable mood and started making affirmative statements without considering what he was saying…

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Last month, we discussed an interesting case that was pending before the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court. The question presented: whether an adult entertainment club is entitled to a sales tax exemption for admission and lap dance fees under the theory that these dances qualify as “dramatic or musical arts performances.”

Flying with the speed of boobie tassels attached to a stripper gyrating furiously around a pole, the court handed down its ruling just a few short weeks after oral argument. Here’s what the court held….

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Stripping is supposed to be a lucrative profession — just look at all of the law students racing to the poles in the hopes of obtaining gainful employment. And in some states, bumping and grinding on stage while wearing six-inch lucite heels is even considered an artful expression worthy of protection under the First Amendment. Unfortunately, two lawsuits in New York and Texas threaten to sabotage the erotic striptease entertainment that we’ve all come to know and love.

New York’s highest court is currently considering whether an adult club is entitled to a sales tax exemption for lap dances under the theory that they qualify as “dramatic or musical arts performances.” Meanwhile, in the Lone Star state, a plaintiff in a federal class action suit claims that strippers are misclassified as independent contractors and being forced to live on tips alone.

Now that we’ve greased the pole, let’s get ready for a feature performance from both of these suits….

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Many of the things I enjoy in life (smoking, drinking, kicking children who speak out of turn) are either illegal or subject to a sin tax. Luckily, most of the laws against my illegal vices are unenforceable if I commit infractions discretely. (“I don’t know what happened to little Jimmy. He must have fallen onto my foot.”) But I can’t avoid sin taxes — and thus I can’t stand them.

First of all, they are regressive. Secondly, they’re anti-business. So we literally have a tax regime that freedom-loving progressives and money-loving conservatives should hate, and yet sin taxes continue to be an acceptable way for the government to shove its morality down our throats.

The Texas Supreme Court is wrestling with just such a question of morality versus freedom and money. Specifically, it’s a battle between morality and the freedom to stuff money into a g-string. The Austin-American Statesman reports:

Is exotic dancing, performed partially clothed or fully nude, a form of free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution?

Strip club owners insist that it is, and on Thursday they asked the Texas Supreme Court to strike down the state’s $5-per-patron tax as an unconstitutional limit on free expression.

Of course, proponents of the tax can’t just come out and say “we hate men who like to look at nude women.” Check out the hook they’re trying to hang their abuse of legislative power on…

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