You’ve heard of stealth taxes, now there are snatch taxes...
You’ve got to hand it to the Germans. As well as being tolerably good at making cars and sausages, the German city of Bonn has now come up with the best sin tax of them all. Prostitute tax. Collected by a parking meter.
That’s right, within designated areas for prostitution, ladies of the night will now need to feed €6 per night (about £5.30) into a specially designed (and German manufactured) machine that permits them to ply their trade. The charge is per night, not per punter, and tickets are only required between the hours of 8:15pm and 6am, Monday to Sunday.
In an attempt to control the game, the city has already banned prostitution from certain areas of the city, but pragmatically allocated six closed-off parking places for the use of prostitutes and their clients. Along with the location providing a certain amount of privacy, they also come with alarms a prostitute can trigger if she gets into trouble.
Monika Frombgen, a spokeswoman for Bonn city council, said the ticket machines would bring street prostitutes into fiscal line with their peers in registered sex establishments.
"This is an act of tax fairness," she said. "Prostitutes in fixed establishments such as brothels and sauna clubs already pay tax." She added that with many street prostitutes foreign born previous attempts to tax them had floundered on a widespread inability to comprehend a German income tax form. The machines, Bonn hopes, will provide an easy-to-understand system of taxation.
Mystery shoppers*, will prowl the streets and any prostitute caught without a ticket will receive a warning for a first offence, but after that faces the possibility of a fine or a ban from practicing prostitution.
Although these are the first parking tickets sold from a machine with the aim of taxing prostitution, and strictly speaking this is taxing the space not the car, this is just the latest step for Bonn's as it wrestles with financial problems. Earlier this year the city introduced a "sex tax", and overall the city anticipates raising annual revenue of £265,000 for the city's coffers. In actual fact, Dortmund has already introduced hooker-tickets system but it requires prostitutes to buy tickets from petrol stations rather than meters. Still with the vehicle metaphor though.
But what do the ladies themselves think of the scheme? Head of financial management of Bonn, Hekie Andrey says they seem pleased: "As far as I have heard (it was received) quite positively. Because the women now have the chance to pay their taxes anonymously. They do not have to fill in forms to do their tax returns. The women still have that opportunity because it is laid down in the tax law. But with the meter they can also anonymously fulfil their duty of paying taxes." Yes. Out of all the prostitutes I have met, it is their failure to meet their fiscal obligation that is most weighing on their mind.**
So, looks like everyone is happy which leaves only one question- where do they display their ticket?
* This is a lie. Ticket inspectors will go around checking tickets. I just thought it might kill two birds with one stone.
** This is also a lie. I have never met any prostitutes. But I bet I’m right.