Harriet Harman seeks to stop lap-dancing tax break

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Indy Politics

Businesses could be banned from claiming back tax on corporate entertainment visits to lap-dancing clubs, after Equalities Minister Harriet Harman denounced the practice.

Ms Harman is asking Chancellor Alistair Darling to remove tax relief on corporate events that exclude female employees and form part of the wider sex industry.

At present, companies can claim back VAT at 15 per cent on money spent taking staff out for the evening for team-building purposes, as well as offsetting the cost of entertaining clients against corporation tax.

But Ms Harman said that going to lap-dancing clubs should not be regarded as a legitimate business expense.

She told a meeting yesterday: "Entertaining in lap-dancing clubs has the effect of excluding women. It's wrong, both in excluding women in the workplace, but is also part of a larger industry of exploitation of women and selling sex, so we have to look at it in both respects.

"I will take up the issue of tax relief, because there is a whole host of rules around tax relief. For example you can't get tax relief for childcare, which is necessary for you to go to work. Why should you be able to get tax relief for a night out at a lap-dancing club where effectively you are discriminating against women employees in doing so?"

Ms Harman's office today said that she was raising the issue with Mr Darling, but said it was too early to say what action might result from her intervention.

Research published by the Fawcett Society found that 41% of lap-dancing clubs market direct to businesses, and 86% of those in London provide discreet receipts to clients, so that the nature of the entertainment is not apparent when they claim expenses.