Porn Tax

Porn Tax March 13, 2009

A number of states, hungry for new revenue, want to get a cut of the action of the booming pornography industry. They are proposing taxes on pornography, strip clubs, and sex shops.
But the proposals may not pass legal muster. See ‘Porn Taxes’ Face First Amendment Issues.

Would you favor such taxes, reasoning that taxing an industry is a sure way to hurt it? Or does it bother you that the state–and thus you–would become complicit in the sex trade?

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TRENDING AT PATHEOS Evangelical
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • fws

    I have always been fascinated by the fact that EVERYONE, ESPECIALLY conservative christians in general, seem to favor "sin taxes".

    I guess it is seen as a form of punishment. but what it really does is make the government a partner and permanent participant in the misery of others. this of course especially includes government sponsored and indian casinos.

    ON THE OTHER HAND… those things will be with us always. taxation also means regulation. it would be great for the government to regulate not only the porn industry, but also legalize and regulate the heck out of prostitution. and also drugs for that matter. it would break the back of organized crime almost immediately and would fix the heroin trade in afghanistan, which in turn finances the taliban, which in turn would also defeat those terrorists without firing a shot……

    let´s think outside the box. it could be a really good thing…..

  • fws

    I have always been fascinated by the fact that EVERYONE, ESPECIALLY conservative christians in general, seem to favor "sin taxes".

    I guess it is seen as a form of punishment. but what it really does is make the government a partner and permanent participant in the misery of others. this of course especially includes government sponsored and indian casinos.

    ON THE OTHER HAND… those things will be with us always. taxation also means regulation. it would be great for the government to regulate not only the porn industry, but also legalize and regulate the heck out of prostitution. and also drugs for that matter. it would break the back of organized crime almost immediately and would fix the heroin trade in afghanistan, which in turn finances the taliban, which in turn would also defeat those terrorists without firing a shot……

    let´s think outside the box. it could be a really good thing…..

  • Dan Kempin

    That is an interesting question. ____On the one hand, I think it appalling that the tax code be used to "punish" an industry. If the governement has a problem with something, they should consider making it illegal–not "legal, so long as you pay a bribe." This brings up the whole issue of taxation as tyranny, when the legitimate right of government to impose reasonable taxes for a specific purpose is used instead as a lever to shape society. ____On the other hand, taxing pornography would be an obvious cash cow, so I'm not sure they will be able to stay away. I was just reflecting recently on the governmental policy of heavy taxation on addictive items. Cigarettes, for example, reveal a monumental hypocrisy. Members of congress carry on about how harmful and terrible smoking is, and how evil and greedy is the tobacco industry, but they receive so much revenue from exorbitant taxation that they will never ban smoking. ____Is it ethical for the government to gouge prisoners of addiction? Is it ethical for the government to proclaim that something is wrong enough to be "punished," but acceptable if an "indulgence" is paid? ____

  • Dan Kempin

    That is an interesting question. ____On the one hand, I think it appalling that the tax code be used to "punish" an industry. If the governement has a problem with something, they should consider making it illegal–not "legal, so long as you pay a bribe." This brings up the whole issue of taxation as tyranny, when the legitimate right of government to impose reasonable taxes for a specific purpose is used instead as a lever to shape society. ____On the other hand, taxing pornography would be an obvious cash cow, so I'm not sure they will be able to stay away. I was just reflecting recently on the governmental policy of heavy taxation on addictive items. Cigarettes, for example, reveal a monumental hypocrisy. Members of congress carry on about how harmful and terrible smoking is, and how evil and greedy is the tobacco industry, but they receive so much revenue from exorbitant taxation that they will never ban smoking. ____Is it ethical for the government to gouge prisoners of addiction? Is it ethical for the government to proclaim that something is wrong enough to be "punished," but acceptable if an "indulgence" is paid? ____

  • Dan Kempin

    Continued . . .

    I guess I am dubious in general of government solutions to societal problems, and I am particularly terrified when the solutions involve "Morality." (Emphasis on the quotes.) If you think this through, you see that no one is proposing to eliminate pornography–they are just going to tax it, yet this increased taxation and consequent increase of government power is cloaked in "morality."

    Pornography is terrible, but so is social engineering. The tax codes applied to pornography today can be applied to the church tomorrow.

  • Dan Kempin

    Continued . . .

    I guess I am dubious in general of government solutions to societal problems, and I am particularly terrified when the solutions involve "Morality." (Emphasis on the quotes.) If you think this through, you see that no one is proposing to eliminate pornography–they are just going to tax it, yet this increased taxation and consequent increase of government power is cloaked in "morality."

    Pornography is terrible, but so is social engineering. The tax codes applied to pornography today can be applied to the church tomorrow.

  • Manxman

    I don't think the government is taxing this stuff for moral reasons – I think they are being opportunistic and see this activity as a means to feed their immoral addiction to spending money on things they shouldn't be involved in in the first place. This tax on the sex industry is just the first of many creative taxation ploys our cash-starved governmental officials are going to inflict on us.

    I favor taxation of this toxic waste – the more the better. As for the argument that this makes me somehow complicit in the sex trade, that's a real hoot. Our government is ALREADY spending billions of dollars that make its citizens complicit in all kinds of sinful behavior and anti-social, un-Biblical lifestyles.

  • Manxman

    I don't think the government is taxing this stuff for moral reasons – I think they are being opportunistic and see this activity as a means to feed their immoral addiction to spending money on things they shouldn't be involved in in the first place. This tax on the sex industry is just the first of many creative taxation ploys our cash-starved governmental officials are going to inflict on us.

    I favor taxation of this toxic waste – the more the better. As for the argument that this makes me somehow complicit in the sex trade, that's a real hoot. Our government is ALREADY spending billions of dollars that make its citizens complicit in all kinds of sinful behavior and anti-social, un-Biblical lifestyles.

  • Dan Kempin

    Cash starved–that's a hoot!

  • Dan Kempin

    Cash starved–that's a hoot!

  • Katy

    Well, this is a good opportunity for the government to bring in more money. A lot of people are against porn/etc. so they'll be supportive of them being taxed more.

  • Katy

    Well, this is a good opportunity for the government to bring in more money. A lot of people are against porn/etc. so they'll be supportive of them being taxed more.

  • What is really sad is that these taxes may not pass muster because of First Amendment concerns, as Dr. Veith noted. The Founders wrote the First Amendment to protect political speech, the free exercise of religion (as well as to ensure that government would not be run by a single religion), and the press. Yet, political speech is some of the most highly regulated speech in public discourse, and free exercise of religion protections are only accorded a medium level of scrutiny by the courts, meaning that as long as a law isn't specifically intended to discriminate against the free exercise of one's religion, that law will be deemed constitutional. In the meantime, pornography is protected under the highest level of scrutiny, at the same level as freedom of the press. Just what the Founders intended, I'm sure.

  • What is really sad is that these taxes may not pass muster because of First Amendment concerns, as Dr. Veith noted. The Founders wrote the First Amendment to protect political speech, the free exercise of religion (as well as to ensure that government would not be run by a single religion), and the press. Yet, political speech is some of the most highly regulated speech in public discourse, and free exercise of religion protections are only accorded a medium level of scrutiny by the courts, meaning that as long as a law isn't specifically intended to discriminate against the free exercise of one's religion, that law will be deemed constitutional. In the meantime, pornography is protected under the highest level of scrutiny, at the same level as freedom of the press. Just what the Founders intended, I'm sure.

  • (Continued)
    Dan Kempin, as usual, posted a great comment concerning the pros and cons of the so-called "sin taxes". I agree with him — in general, it is a bad thing when government picks and chooses particular targets for taxation. A tax on porn will not cause me to lose sleep at night, and I am not going to fight for pornographers' rights to publish their smut, but I'm against the concept on principle, and it sets a bad precedent. Maybe they'll go after religious publishers next, for publishing hate. Don't laugh — just look at Canada and their so-called "Human Rights Commissions".

  • (Continued)
    Dan Kempin, as usual, posted a great comment concerning the pros and cons of the so-called "sin taxes". I agree with him — in general, it is a bad thing when government picks and chooses particular targets for taxation. A tax on porn will not cause me to lose sleep at night, and I am not going to fight for pornographers' rights to publish their smut, but I'm against the concept on principle, and it sets a bad precedent. Maybe they'll go after religious publishers next, for publishing hate. Don't laugh — just look at Canada and their so-called "Human Rights Commissions".

  • I love the new ability to edit your post after publication. Awesome, especially given my marginal typing skills.

  • I love the new ability to edit your post after publication. Awesome, especially given my marginal typing skills.

  • fws

    somehow i see that my post disappeared…..

  • fws

    somehow i see that my post disappeared…..

  • It's odd, FWS. I can see your previous post in the HTML code, but it's not showing up. Hmm.

  • It's odd, FWS. I can see your previous post in the HTML code, but it's not showing up. Hmm.

  • Tom

    I definitely see both sides. I'd like to see a tax on it as it is a "luxury" item, as they do with V-6 SUVs and sports cars. BUT once you tax one item/industry what will stop them there? I see slippery slopes on both sides…

  • Tom

    I definitely see both sides. I'd like to see a tax on it as it is a "luxury" item, as they do with V-6 SUVs and sports cars. BUT once you tax one item/industry what will stop them there? I see slippery slopes on both sides…

  • I don't understand how it ISN'T taxed already. I mean, if you buy a product there is a tax, right? If I purchase a DVD of Star Wars, there is a tax, but not Smut Wars? What about, if you purchase a foot massager, there is a tax, but not another type of massager? This doesn't make any sense!!

  • I don't understand how it ISN'T taxed already. I mean, if you buy a product there is a tax, right? If I purchase a DVD of Star Wars, there is a tax, but not Smut Wars? What about, if you purchase a foot massager, there is a tax, but not another type of massager? This doesn't make any sense!!

  • Sarah, the proposals are to specifically increase the tax on pornographic materials. Similar to the special taxes on alcohol and cigarettes which are currently in place in every state, as well as federally. If you read the linked article in Dr. Veith's post, you will see that in Washington state, the proposal is to levy a much higher sales tax rate against these materials than is levied against other items.

  • Sarah, the proposals are to specifically increase the tax on pornographic materials. Similar to the special taxes on alcohol and cigarettes which are currently in place in every state, as well as federally. If you read the linked article in Dr. Veith's post, you will see that in Washington state, the proposal is to levy a much higher sales tax rate against these materials than is levied against other items.

  • Sarah, the proposals are to specifically increase the tax on pornographic materials. This would be similar to the special taxes on alcohol and cigarettes which are currently in place in every state, as well as federally. If you read the linked article in Dr. Veith's post, you will see that in Washington state, the proposal is to levy a much higher sales tax rate against these materials than is levied against other items.

  • Sarah, the proposals are to specifically increase the tax on pornographic materials. This would be similar to the special taxes on alcohol and cigarettes which are currently in place in every state, as well as federally. If you read the linked article in Dr. Veith's post, you will see that in Washington state, the proposal is to levy a much higher sales tax rate against these materials than is levied against other items.

  • matthias

    I know that the wages of sin is death and this new tax certainly confirms in my mind the three certainties in life-birth ,death and taxes-and that this tax over there in USA could be labelled syntax

  • matthias

    I know that the wages of sin is death and this new tax certainly confirms in my mind the three certainties in life-birth ,death and taxes-and that this tax over there in USA could be labelled syntax

  • The Jones

    I don't really see a moral quandary with being "complicit" with the porn industry. I call it a fact of life that in our free-speech plastered society, it's impossible to kill the porn industry. Therefore, I think a viable alternative is to tax the bejezus out of it to eternally torment it's existence in our society. Will it past constitutional muster? Maybe not, but I don't think there's anything morally wrong with trying. Not a perfect plan, but it's good enough for gov'ment work.

  • The Jones

    I don't really see a moral quandary with being "complicit" with the porn industry. I call it a fact of life that in our free-speech plastered society, it's impossible to kill the porn industry. Therefore, I think a viable alternative is to tax the bejezus out of it to eternally torment it's existence in our society. Will it past constitutional muster? Maybe not, but I don't think there's anything morally wrong with trying. Not a perfect plan, but it's good enough for gov'ment work.

  • Erik

    Porn should be taxed and can be taxed. How anyone could compare Newsweek and National Geographic to Playboy is beyond me. That's like comparing Plymouth Neons and Dodge Rams to slugs. On top of that the Constitution does permit excise taxes, and already does use that (tobacco, gas, alcohol). Freedom of expression doesn't protect obscenity. The Supreme Court has ruled that. I support an extremely heavy tax on porn. This will provide the government with some needed revenue for a while, and they could wean themselves off of the spending spree that they are on since this money would eventually dry up, due to the tax being so high. They could use the money to chop away at the deficit, instead of taking more money out of the hands of hardworking Americans. I would not go so far as to say that we would become complacent about this matter. Higher taxes create less of an incentive to do business. Porn is a major industry and higher taxes would force it to shrink or (dare I hope?) go away. The people who work in the industry could use this as an incentive to find good, respectable vocations.

    (I really hope that we could actually prosecute pornographic possession. Is that unrealistic by this time? –Porn is a form of expression but so is cheating on your spouse, theft, or murder.)

  • Erik

    Porn should be taxed and can be taxed. How anyone could compare Newsweek and National Geographic to Playboy is beyond me. That's like comparing Plymouth Neons and Dodge Rams to slugs. On top of that the Constitution does permit excise taxes, and already does use that (tobacco, gas, alcohol). Freedom of expression doesn't protect obscenity. The Supreme Court has ruled that. I support an extremely heavy tax on porn. This will provide the government with some needed revenue for a while, and they could wean themselves off of the spending spree that they are on since this money would eventually dry up, due to the tax being so high. They could use the money to chop away at the deficit, instead of taking more money out of the hands of hardworking Americans. I would not go so far as to say that we would become complacent about this matter. Higher taxes create less of an incentive to do business. Porn is a major industry and higher taxes would force it to shrink or (dare I hope?) go away. The people who work in the industry could use this as an incentive to find good, respectable vocations.

    (I really hope that we could actually prosecute pornographic possession. Is that unrealistic by this time? –Porn is a form of expression but so is cheating on your spouse, theft, or murder.)