September 18, 2015 The Tax Lawyer

Exotic Dancing: Taxable Gyrations or Exempt Art?

Vol. 68, No. 4 - Summer 2015

John O. Hayward

Abstract

    Although exotic dancers usually embroil themselves in censorship battles with local authorities, recently they have drawn the attention of tax authorities who have tussled with the owners of so-called “gentlemen’s clubs” over whether the exotic dancing performed in their establishments are subject to taxation. This paper examines two recent cases where state authorities choose to tax exotic dancing while at the same time exempting what some jurists regard as comparable choreographic performances. In the opinion of these commentators, the tax authorities exhibited a bias against low-brow artistic expression, thus engaging in impermissible content discrimination. It advances the proposition that judges are unsuited to make artistic evaluations, and concludes with a plea that government should not tax artistic expression simply because it deems it distasteful or offensive.

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