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Strip club says nude lap dancing is art

2012-09-06 09:00
New York - A New York strip club says its nude lap dances are an art form and should be exempt from state taxes.

The state tax department and an appeals court disagree and want the Nite Moves club in Albany to pay $124 000.

New York's highest court hears the arguments on Wednesday.

Choreographed performances

Tax officials say sales taxes are owed on so-called "couch sales", where patrons pay for private or lap dances.

Nite Moves claims the dances are exempt under state tax law as "live dramatic or musical arts performances". The exemption also applies to theatre or ballet.

The club is relying on testimony from a cultural anthropologist who has studied exotic dance and visited Nite Moves.

An administrative law judge previously agreed with Nite Moves, saying that "the fact that the dancers remove all or part of their costume ... simply does not render such dance routines as something less than choreographed performances".

Sufficient proof

But the state Tax Appeals Tribunal said the club didn't present sufficient proof that it qualifies for the exemption, and a court upheld the ruling last year.

"In our view, there can be no serious question that - at a bare minimum - petitioner failed to meet its burden of establishing that the private dances offered at its club were choreographed performances," the Appellate Division court ruled.

The court noted that the club dancers are not required to have any formal dance training and that the anthropologist didn't see any of the dances done in private rooms.

Cary Ziter, a spokesperson for the state Department of Taxation and Finance, said the tax department doesn't know how many so-called gentlemen's clubs operate in New York.

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