Las Vegas Sun

May 20, 2019

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Proposed bill would tax prostitution at $5 per session

Senator says bill could bring $2 million a year to state coffers

Brothels

Sam Morris / 2006 file photo

The lights of Sheri’s Ranch in Pahrump are reflected in the hood of a limousine parked in front.

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CARSON CITY – Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, proposed a tax on prostitution today that he says could raise $2 million a year for the state.

Patrons of prostitutes — both legal and illegal — would pay an extra $5 tax per session under the bill, which Coffin said was his idea alone.

In the runup to the legislative session, a lobbyist for the state’s legal brothels volunteered to be taxed, an effort that some said would guarantee their continued survival. Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley turned down the industry, effectively killing the effort.

“I think we will support it,” George Flint, a spokesman for the state’s brothel industry, said of Coffin’s bill.

There are eight “major” brothels in the rural counties, where they are legal, and 17 smaller houses of prostitution, said Flint. The minimum charges range from $100 to $200.

Coffin said he had considered applying the state’s live entertainment tax to prostitution, but encountered some constitutional questions.

Information received by the state Department of Taxation in collecting the proposed tax would be confidential, he said. The department could publish how much it took in, so long as it didn’t identify an individual business.

Part of the receipts would be used to finance an “ombudsman for sex workers” who would help prostitutes who have complaints or want to leave prostitution and enter another profession.

Asked how the state could collect the tax from the independent street walkers, Coffin said that the business tax, when first imposed, wasn’t collected from all of those who were required to pay it.

As a new tax, the bill would require a two-thirds vote for passage.

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