A new tax on smut?

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By Tim Redmond

Heads up: There's a move in Sacramento to put a new tax on "adult entertainment." (Scroll down and read the second part of the press release). A couple of thoughts:

1. I'm a tax-and-spend liberal, and I have no problems in general with taxes on services.

2. Still, this is kind of funky. It's not clear yet how the bill will define "adult entertainment." As demimonde and labor activist Princess Pandora puts it:

Do they charge Britney Spears concerts? She dances all sexy, including "pelvic undulations," which are considered a simulated sex act by ABC and can get a club fined/shut down. What about the ballet? Those tights don't leave much to the imagination. Do you think women love Barishnikov for his dancing? Girlfriend, please! If I do porn, but wear flowers in my hair, and maybe recite some crappy poetry, can I call it "performance art" and avoid the tax?

3. We don't charge sales tax on newspapers and magazines. When does a magazine become porn, and thus taxable? One nude on the cover (that would include much of the alternative press in America)? What about the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue? (I know, it's pretty lame, but Playboy's pretty lame, too).

4. I don't love the connection this bill makes, if even implictly, between "adult entertainment" and domestic violence. Don't want to open a can of worms here, but I think there's a lot more DV that can be traced to the Super Bowl than to most innocent smut.

I've put in a call to Assembly member Torrico's office, and they promised to get back to me. I'll keep you posted.

UPDATE: Jeff Barbosa, a spokesperson for Torrico, just called me. He said the bill is a "work in progress" and that they still haven't defined what "adult entertainment" will be. But he said right now they're using Penal Code Section 313 as a working definition.

Here's the language:

"Harmful matter" means matter, taken as a whole, which to the
average person, applying contemporary statewide standards, appeals to
the prurient interest, and is matter which, taken as a whole,
depicts or describes in a patently offensive way sexual conduct and
which, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political,
or scientific value for minors.

Ooh, I can see this creating a lot of problems.

I wonder: Perhaps the Assembly could take a page from Tom Ammiano's pot bill, and legalize prositution, then tax it. Make sense to me.