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Sorry, New York Lap Dances Are Not Tax Exempt, Court Rules

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on October 24, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Cultural performances get a tax exemption in New York, but in case you're wondering, that doesn't include lap dances.

An 'adult club' in Albany, New York thought they might be onto something when they filed a lawsuit over state sales tax. The club claimed that its admission fee and the cost of private dances should be exempt as a cultural endeavor.

The state's high court wasn't convinced that lap dances have the same cultural value as ballet.

But it wasn't a unanimous decision.

The decision, handed down by New York State's Superior Court (the highest court in the state) was a close 4 to 3 ruling against the club. It was close, but still enough to deny the tax exemption.

Sales tax applies to many things but just like other taxes there are exemptions for certain purchases.

Food isn't subject to sales tax although prepared meals have their own tax. Purchases made for educational purposes are often tax free although each state has their own specific rules.

New York law also exempts "dramatic or musical arts performances" that promote culture, reports NBC News. It's the culture issue that was a problem for the club

Apparently the New York Superior Court doesn't see the cultural value of a private dance.

This isn't the first time displays of sexuality have been rejected from the category 'art' by the legal community.

One of the most famous lines to come out of a legal case, 'I know it when I see it,' was originally used to describe how pornography is separate from art. While determining the test for obscenity, the Supreme Court noted that pornography is obscene while art is not.

Art was given the status of protected speech while obscenity (and pornography) was not. The issue here is different, but lap dances still came out on the losing side.

Customer's will still have to pay sales tax for private dances in New York, but at least Nite Moves has made it clear where to find one.

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