Since the end of last month, freelance sex workers in Bonn, Germany must make use of an innovative, yet controversial, method of paying taxes. On Saturday, August 27, new prostitution tax meters were installed on Immenburgstrasse, an industrial street where prostitutes without storefronts advertise their services. Each worker is required to pay a mandatory tax of 6 Euros per night, regardless of earnings, and to keep a receipt as proof that they paid.
The sex work tax has been in place for some time and was simple to enforce at brothels and other formal establishments, but taxing freelance workers was more difficult—something that the meters should make more simple. Advocates say that this form of taxation will provide a convenient, anonymous way for prostitutes to pay the tax.
Some of the workers are not thrilled about the new method. Sex worker Juanita Rosina Henning sees it is equivalent to double taxation, as all prostitutes already pay income tax on earnings.
In America, prostitution laws are determined by the individual states, but Nevada is the only one out of the 50 states that allows legal sex work, and even then only in a few rural cities. Not to say that there aren’t still sex workers in every part of the nation—the market simply operates underground. For that reason, prostitution is one of the most dangerous industries in America, and there are many who believe that it should be legalized so that the business can be brought up to the surface where it can be taxed, regulated, and the workers can be better protected. If you want to know more about sex work in America, 11 points offers a list of 11 myths and facts about American prostitution.
In Germany, where prostitution has been legal and taxed by the state since 2002, it is apparent that conditions for sex workers greatly exceed that of American prostitutes. Prostitutes can join unions (for example Berlin’s HYDRA) and can receive health insurance benefits. Bonn provides “consummation areas,” garages where prostitutes can go to do their work. Germany even spends 116,000 Euros per year to better protect the workers by placing security guards to police these areas. These garages, as well as special zones on the outskirts of the city, were also partially meant to solve the issue of complaints about sex work occurring in residential areas or other inappropriate places.
Besides the hitch of finding appropriate places for prostitutes to work, the German prostitution industry seems to cast less controversy in Germany than it does in other countries who evaluate it. Prostitution services are used by 1.2 million German men annually, and Germany considers the industry a useful source of tax revenue—officials expect 200,000 Euros per year from the meters alone.