It is often said that there are two certainties: death and taxes. If you're running a massage parlour or a hostess agency, there's only death. There is an overwhelming economic and social case for legalising prostitution, and one of the most obvious reasons is that driving it underground deprives the government of tax revenues.New estimates of the scale of female prostitution in London make it possible to guess how much revenue is being lost by the Treasury. If the industry has sales of pounds 200m a year from women working in the capital alone, then adding in male prostitution and the rest of the UK means that nationwide it is probably a pounds 1bn to pounds 1.5bn industry.
Illegality has never stopped the Inland Revenue or Customs and Excise from trying to claim their dues. The well-known entrepreneur Cynthia Payne, for one, can testify to the assiduousness of the tax inspectors. Even so, it is much harder to levy the full whack of taxes on a business that is not 100 per cent above board.