Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Swedish Taxes and Prostitution

In some exciting Swedish news, prostitutes want to pay taxes. Because, as we all know from a previous discussion, prostitution is legal here in Sweden. It’s just the johns who are breaking the law. Selling sex is fine. Buying it? Not so fine.

But let me just repeat that in case you are just skimming. Prostitutes in Sweden want to pay taxes. Want to.

I just love the fact that people actually want to pay taxes here in Sweden. Coming from the US, “taxes” is like a dirty word and politicians promise to lower them to cheers from thousands of onlookers. In Sweden, people get upset when politicians lower taxes, and some people who are currently not paying taxes actually want in on the action. Despite their profession being, well, a bit under the table.

The idea is that the prostitutes want the social benefits that come with being a tax payer. And I suppose prostitution could probably use those benefits. Does not a prostitute get sick like you and me? Does not a prostitute have children like you and me? Does not a prostitute want to take vacation like you and me? Does not a prostitute want to retire? The answer is yes. And to some of those questions maybe even more emphatically than the average person.

However, it seems to me that the widespread paying of taxes by prostitutes might being up a few, shall we say, issues. Filing taxes in Sweden is quite easy. I was pleasantly surprised actually when I did it. However, there are records to be kept, and if you’re in a certain line of business, receipts to be kept. So with the furthered legitimization of prostitution comes paperwork.

And paperwork means better records. And with better records comes the potential for tracing who it is that is buying sex. It’s a bit of a conundrum really. The Local quotes Blank Thörnroos as saying “[o]ne should really have accounting records. And in actuality [customers] should write out a receipt, because the transaction is considered a private operation which is subject to value added tax. But customers’ names need not be on the receipt.”

Because that will work like a charm. For some reason, I don’t imagine too many sex buyers really wanting a receipt for their recent purchase. But I may be wrong. Maybe it’s tax deductible if done on the company dime.

Anyway, bad jokes aside, I find this Catch-22 a bit perplexing. Buying sex is illegal. Selling it is not. Paying taxes on the purchase of sex would legitimize it. But to pay taxes someone needs to be buying it. Which, remember? Is illegal. I guess I just don’t really understand. Either make it legal. Or make it illegal. But to have this half-ass nonsense is just ridiculous.

In the end, I’m not all that interested in the prostitution law itself. I just love the fact that prostitutes want to pay taxes in Sweden. Not exactly your average headline in America.

Welcome to Sweden.

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  1. You're so right! American headlines are full of Mrs. Palin and her family right now. Am I right, or is she a tabloid queen only in Europe?

  2. Sorry about the previous comment. I created a post of my own about that subject instead. It was just so tempting to comment...

    In Finland the prostitution law is pretty much the same as in Sweden. Now we're talking about the same issues in both countries. I think that, like in many cases, Finland is waiting for Sweden to do something and react based on that. Recently Sweden has done the same thing, e.g. with alcohol tax lowering. Which was a bit of disaster in Finland so they did nothing such in Sweden... That could a subject for another post, but let's face it, it's not THAT interesting.

    Another good post from you still!

  3. no worries at all. and ome on now, anything that ahs to do with alcohol prices seems to be of interest here in sweden.

  4. It's a funny what Sweden does to people. Enjoying paying tax is one of them: me included. Good point there, with the "catch-22" I don't quite see a way around it either. Maybe they should make it legal for both parties, instead of pretending it doesn't exist. Prostitution became legal in New Zealand a few years back and seriously it took a turn for the better, than the worse (as many critics expected), it took the prostitutes off the streets into safer residences and it cleaned up really (according to the newspapers and also the decrease in the amount of tartly dressed women on the streets after 11pm).Anyway, that's not saying i think this occupation is right, but well, if people want to do it, they have the right to be safe (and maybe pay taxes) at least.
    Anyway, nice post. I've subscribed to your blog and it's now become part of my daily ritual :-)

  5. it is an interesting issue isn't it. I suppose it really comes down to whether to legalize it or not. because to pay taxes on something that is technically illegal to purchase just confuses me. but that being said... hell if they want to pay I doubt the government will turn down the tax money.

  6. Prostitution and taxes are both wrong.