The IRS versus Pimps

The Senate Judiciary has approved a bill that would establish an office in the IRS for investigating pimps and prostitutes who haven’t paid income taxes.

The Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning approved a bill sponsored by committee chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, authorizing at least $2 million toward the establishment of an office in the IRS criminal investigation unit to prosecute unlawful sex workers for violations of tax laws.

The bill’s approval gives the IRS harsh new criminal penalties for use against those in the underground criminal economy. According to Grassley’s office, the majority of the victims of sex trafficking — those who are often smuggled in from other counties and virtually imprisoned in a house set up for prostitution — are girls ages 13 to 17.

Can we say “overreach” anybody? What is the point of establishing a new program in the IRS for shutting down child sex rings (not that it will actually do much to them)? Wouldn’t that money be better spent on law enforcement agencies that actually have a prayer of shutting them down? This is pandering at its finest–a pretty bandage that does zero to solve the underlying problem.

If governments actually cared about the victims of sex trafficking, the logical thing to do would be to legalize and regulate prostitution. A legal, transparent system would make it much easier to ensure both the age and ability to consent of prostitutes. Abuse would go down, disease incidences would go down, and child trafficking would go down. Prostitution will always be with us, so why not ensure that any acts of prostitution occur solely between consenting adults?

(link via Matthew Yglesias)

FILED UNDER: US Politics, , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. Matt says:

    A goup of us who pretty much cover the political spectrum from left to right were discussing this at dinner last night. While everyone agreed this particular effort was little more than grandstanding, there certainly is precedent for going after unreported income (prohibition, war on drugs, etc.)

    I’m not convinced, though, that legalization and regulation is the panacea that some seem to think. Making prostitution a legal enterprise is not going to ensure that all prostitutes are of legal age and/or healthy. It would simply ensure that there would be a two-tiered system. As a friend who travels to Amsterdam rather often noted, you can spend the money in the legitimate red-light district or, if one is low on cash, there are always free-lancers in the train station that are much cheaper.

  2. Alex Knapp says:

    Hey, a two-tiered system is still better than the one tier system we have now. Legalization won’t make everything perfect, but it will make it better.

  3. Bithead says:

    I will quietly remind the room of the mechenism used to pull down Al Capone:

    Tax evasion.

  4. Enact the FairTax – problem goes away.

  5. Perhaps you should link to the Brazilian hooker article in gone Hollywood.

    Of course the use of the IRS to delve into people’s bedroom habits would be stopped by eliminating the income tax.

  6. Kip Watson says:

    A disastrous idea.

    We have legalised prostitution here in Australia, and believe me it has *not* reduced the level or severity of this insidious problem. All it has has done is made the organised crime element that runs all these operations more entrenched and given them a cover behind which to hide, and through which to launder the profits, of their other criminal activities.

    “Why does reality so stubbornly refuse to conform to my beautiful theories” the libertarian laments (echoing the socialist utopian of a previous generation).

  7. Joe Kristan says:

    The IRS already has all of the legal tools it needs to go after tax-evading pimps. This just makes pimp tax evasion some sort of super-tax-crime. Al Capone went away without his own special tax statute.

    If this gets enacted, we’ll see whatever crime is currently featured on Oprah get its own special tax penalty. And the crimes will continue, and the politicians will go on to other things.

  8. Mac says:

    If governments actually cared about the victims of sex trafficking, the logical thing to do would be to legalize and regulate prostitution.


    Nobody ever needs to wonder why libertarians just simply CANNOT be taken seriously. Really.

    All together now : FREE MARKET EXTREMISTS

    Socialist Utopians indeed.

  9. michael says:

    In most public oriented businesses it is the ‘talent’ that makes the money. I understand the pimps make the biggest share here. Is that like traditional?