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Cologne 'sex tax' eyed by other cities

The Local · 25 Mar 2010, 12:18

Published: 25 Mar 2010 10:34 GMT+01:00
Updated: 25 Mar 2010 12:18 GMT+01:00

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The WAZ media group reported on Thursday that other municipalities in the large western state of North Rhine-Westphalia were eyeing such a tax, and that the state's Interior Minister, Ingo Wolf, was favourable to the idea.

Big cities such as Essen, Duisburg and Dortmund, were looking into the plan and the ministry already has proposals from Oberhausen, Dorsten, Gladbeck and Sprockhövel.

Cologne made headlines in 2004 as one of the first cities in the world to introduce such a “sex tax.”

There, the levy is simple: it is charged on establishments that operate legal prostitution, either on individual sex workers at a rate of €150 tax per month, or on the size of the establishment, at €3 per 10 square metres of area.

After a court recently banned the tax during certain months of the year in response to a challenge from sex club owners, Cologne authorities have been looking to Interior Minister Wolf to create a law permitting the tax to be raised on brothels, swingers’ clubs and red light bars.

Political sources in Cologne told WAZ Wolf was thought to back the sex tax. “The political decision has been taken,” one source said.

Jürgen Schlaucher, the Finance Ministry official who deals with the revenue, described it rather clinically as “a tax like any other.”

It remains legally controversial, however, whether the sex tax is a variant of the long-practised entertainment tax or should be assessed as an entirely new one. For a new tax, a city municipality needs the green light from the state government.

In Dortmund, there is debate about a tax for street prostitution – possibly by charging sex workers themselves €15 per working day or by somehow levying a charge on clients who frequent streets where sex workers operate.

Not everyone is impressed by the idea. The sex tax is paid as a so-called “miscellaneous tax” along with pleasure taxes and dog licenses, which put €590 million in cities’ coffers in 2008.

“You can’t restructure budgets with miscellaneous taxes,” said Daniela Schönwälder, spokeswoman of the Association of German Cities and Towns.

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Helmut Dedy of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, said the sex tax was negligible for the cities’ bottom lines.

The pro-business Free Democrats, to which Wolf belongs, are also sceptical, with North Rhine-Westphalia parliamentary leader Gerhard Papke saying a sex tax was “no way to fix municipal finances.”

He said every city would have to decide for itself but added: “I have my doubts whether a municipality does its image any favours if they are connected nationally with such an issue.”

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

11:47 March 25, 2010 by William Thirteen
is this tax in addition to the usual property/small business taxes? rather unfair if so. why should sex work be taxed any differently than other businesses?
11:50 March 25, 2010 by berlinski
Can one claim the tax back when doing yearly returns?
12:15 March 25, 2010 by Joshontour
can anyone explain to me what "€3 per €10 square meters of area." is supposed to mean?
12:20 March 25, 2010 by Bushdiver
Does this mean €30 plus 19% MwsT?
14:34 March 25, 2010 by berlinski
With so many women on Hartz IV going on the game, the government wants to cash in on this also. Maybe there will be women doing it as a 1€ job in the future.
21:02 March 25, 2010 by wxman
In a perfect world, everything should be taxed.
15:37 March 26, 2010 by snowey
There are only two certainties in life - death and taxes!
15:37 March 26, 2010 by Gretl
Won't this just drive legal establishments back into being illegal ones, which defeats the prpose of legalization in order to monitor health and reduce trafficking in women from other nations? Seems the cities lost sight of the original intent of the law.
17:03 March 27, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Will this tax be passed along to the consumer?

Compared to cigarette taxes, I'd say it's still a bargain.
17:17 March 27, 2010 by Johnny Cash
In a lot of cases this is a service industry not just an entertainment industry. The service helps folks who are sexually challeged. I don't think it will pass into legislation as many politicians use the service and you know how it always goes if they are going to be hit in the pocket.
20:25 March 27, 2010 by Logic Guy
Well, I say that there are other ways in which to generate tax revenue. Must Germany accept ever form of immorality?

This is a message for all 6 and a half billion people living here on earth.

"The universe is both physical and moral. And eventually it will correct all forms of imperfection." I'm sure that many scientists would agree. For instance, earth quakes occur when the earth needs to release pressure. It naturally tries to create a perfect balance.

Hasn't Germany already suffered enough? Do German people not know that many of thier ancestors also suffered miserably during World War II?

Immorality comes with a price. Allow no one to tell you otherwise.
21:25 March 27, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Logic Guy:

I think the Germans know that many of their ancestors suffered miserably during World War II. Along with millions of others.

I think the Germans also know that there's nothing immoral about getting laid. You should try it sometime. God will not smite you down.
11:20 March 28, 2010 by punkspop
Prufrock2010: you are spot on. If "God", like there is one, started smiting...there'd be nothing left of most religions. Or of humanity.
13:44 March 28, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Well, religion we can do without. And from what I can observe, there's not much humanity in the world anyway. Smite away.
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