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Amazon, lap dances and the anti-tax crowd

September 05, 2012|By Paul Whitefield
  • Are nude dancers all that different from ballerinas? An attorney for a New York strip club doesn't think so.
Are nude dancers all that different from ballerinas? An attorney for a New… (Douliery-Hahn / Abaca Press…)

Nothing is certain but death and taxes -- and that people hate paying taxes.

In California, that means some folks are in a tizzy because Amazon.com will begin  collecting sales taxes on online purchases as of Sept. 15.

And in New York, it means at least one strip club is flying a “Don’t tread on me” flag over lap dance taxes.

My colleague Andrea Chang reported Wednesday on the Amazon buying surge among some consumers looking to avoid the tax bite. For instance:

Abdel Ibrahim, a tech entrepreneur and trader from San Diego, said he would buy a MacBook Air and MacBook Pro with retina display on Amazon before the cutoff, a move that will save him about $270 in sales taxes.

"It makes a huge difference," the 30-year-old said. "If there's anything else I can think of where I can fork up some money and save a couple hundred bucks, I probably will."

This story, of course, might make interesting reading at the Franchise Tax Board, because as the folks there know -- but Ibrahim apparently doesn’t -- just because Amazon doesn’t collect the tax, you’re not off the hook.  You are supposed to self-report, and pay, the tax.

But of course many people don’t, and that’s one reason California -- and other states -- pressured Amazon to begin collecting the sales tax.  

Not that the commenters on the story seem to understand. There are, for example, the tin-foil hat conspiracy theorists, such as “yokohama1985”:

The public sector unions were the ones pushing hard for this tax increase.

Then there are the “I live here but hate my government” types, such as “TO Perspective”:

Boycott Amazon.  I've love their products and service but now I'll find alternative shopping locations.  More tax for the crooks in Sacramento...no thanks.

But California doesn’t have a monopoly on the anti-tax sentiment. In New York, the state is battling with a gentleman’s club over taxes on cover charges and lap dances.

As my colleague Rene Lynch reported:

The Nite Moves strip club in Albany contends that its performers are artists and that, accordingly, the club's $11 cover charge and $20 nude lap dances should be exempt from the state's 8% sales tax.

(Food for thought, perhaps, for all those threatening to leave California because of its high tax atmosphere. I mean, what is it about East Coast states and hidden taxes?  On a recent trip to Massachusetts, I paid more than $200 in “fees” on a 12-day rental car. Not to mention they wanted $30 to park at the beach.)   

Lest you think this isn’t serious, though, the strip club case is now before New York’s highest court. (If nothing else, the oral arguments ought to be fascinating.)

Amazon is apparently experiencing a sales surge ahead of the tax policy change. Will the Nite Moves club experience a similar surge in lap dances if the court rules in its favor?

If so, expect Mitt Romney and/or Paul Ryan to trumpet it on the campaign trail. Maybe lower taxes do lead to job creation, even for strippers, er, dancers.

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