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The battle over a more than one hundred thousand dollar tax bill will come down to whether or not the justices sitting on New York’s Court of Appeals consider the women of Albany’s Nite Moves strippers or artists. State law gives dramatic, musical arts, theater and ballet performances tax-exempt status. As a producer of live entertainment, Nite Moves feels it should be extended the same courtesy. Not surprisingly, the government vehemently disagrees.
Much of the debate boils down to what customers are actually paying for. Nite Moves has always paid taxes on the sale of drinks, but it has refused to fork over a percentage of the money it makes for admissions and lap dances. The club argues customers are coming and paying to watch its women perform, while the government thinks customers are coming and paying to watch women get naked. It might sound like a subtle difference, but the former could be classified as art while the latter could not be. Consequently, Nite Moves claims it's all paid up on taxes, and the government still wants $124,000.
Thus far, lower court rulings have been split. The state Tax Appeals Tribunal and the Appellate Division Court found in favor of the government, but another judge sided with Nite Moves, arguing it’s unfair and incorrect to say the women aren’t doing routines simply because they don’t have clothes on. Today, the matter will go in front of the highest court in New York. According to USA Today, the ruling is expected to take about a month.
Regardless of what the Court decides, the ruling will not affect the majority of strip clubs. Most sell alcohol and thus, are regulated and taxed differently. The small percentage that are over eighteen and in New York, however, will likely be waiting on pins and needles.