Calif.'s 20% Porn Tax Proposal Shot Down in Committee

Jul 7, 2009 8:30 AM PST
SACRAMENTO — A California bill that would have imposed a 20 percent tax on sales of adult movies and sex toys, as well as the receipts of strip clubs, has been voted down by a legislative panel.

Free Speech Coalition Executive Director Diane Duke, who had traveled Monday to Sacramento for the hearing, told XBIZ that she and FSC Lobbyist Ignacio Hernandez, as well as a representative from the Motion Picture Association of America, had testified in opposition of Assembly Bill 847.

Later Monday, the bill was voted down in the Assembly Tax and Revenue Committee.

“Read my lips — no new taxes on adult entertainment,” Duke said.

California Assemblywoman Mary Salas, D-San Diego, sponsored the proposal, which would have sent revenue from the tax to a newly created Adult Venue Impact Fund.

The fund would then have been distributed to local law enforcement agencies in an effort to deal with secondary effects that are associated with adult entertainment businesses.

Salas’ chief of staff, Francisco Estrada, told XBIZ that the assemblywoman was “deeply disappointed” by the 5-4 vote against the bill.

“At this point, we’re not sure if the bill will be resurrected,” Estrada said.

The hearing on Monday included testimony from Pink Cross Foundation founder Shelley Lubin, who testified in favor of the 20 percent tax. Pink Cross is a 501(c)(3) public charity designed to help ameliorate secondary effects of adult content on the general public and Lubin is a former porn star.

Despite her testimony, the bill has faced heavy opposition from the FSC and the adult trade group has pointed out major technical issues from the get-go.

Two months ago, FSC lobbyist Ignacio Hernandez said the bill could be found unconstitutional on several points, including taxation based on the content of a movie.

“The bill was clearly unconstitutional,” FSC lobbyist Ignacio Hernandez said. “We did the work that needed to be done to communicate to key legislators all the problems a tax on adult entertainment would bring to the state of California.”

“Punishing legitimate retailers who choose to locate in neighborhoods with a need for commercial tenants is not the type of policy we need during these tough economic times," Hernandez said.

Specifically, AB 847 would have levied a 20 percent tax on the gross receipts of any California business that is:

  • A retail establishment whose gross receipts from the sale or rental of adult material exceeds 50 percent of all gross receipts.

  • Providing a public or private viewing of adult material.

  • An establishment that offers live sexually explicit conduct that is prohibited to audiences under 18 years of age or 21 years of age, depending on whether alcoholic beverages are sold on the premises.
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