The state Department of Taxation and Finance released a statement in response to a ruling from the state’s top court today that exotic dancing is taxable under state law. Nite Moves “juice bar” in the Albany suburb of Latham had argued that the dancing was an art form that fell into an area exempt from taxation—dramatic and musical arts performances.
The Court of Appeals said in its 4-3 decision that lap dances are “entertainment,” which is taxable. Tax law imposes a sales tax on admission charges of more than 10 cents for the use of “any place of amusement in the state,” according to the court. That includes sporting events, stock car races, carnivals, amusement parks, zoos, variety shows, ice-skating performances and the like.
“We’ve said all along that this business failed to prove that a tax exemption applied to its situation,” said Cary Ziter, a spokesman for the Department of Taxation and Finance. “We’re pleased with this decision, because it gives similar businesses clear guidance on the issue of sales tax when it comes to live exotic dance establishments.”
The Court of Appeals ruling, commenting on the Tax Appeals Tribunal decision against Nite Moves, said if ice dancing, which is intricately choreographed to music, was not considered to be entitled to a tax exemption, “surely it was not irrational for the Tax Tribunal to conclude that a club presenting performances by women gyrating on a pole to music, however artistic or athletic their practiced moves are, was also not a qualifying performance entitled to exempt status.”
The dissenting opinion said the Tax Appeals Tribunal’s decision “makes a distinction between highbrow dance and lowbrow dance that is not to be found in the governing statute and raises significant constitutional problems.”