Jim was talking about Governor Malloy’s retroactive taxes today, and it raised the question of whether this is even legal, not to mention moral.
(Of course, I defer to our resident legal expert, SOS, regarding any of the following!). According to the Cornell University Law School website:
Ex post facto:
Latin for “from a thing done afterward.” Ex post facto is most typically used to refer to a criminal law that applies retroactively, thereby criminalizing conduct that was legal when originally performed. Two clauses in the US Constitution prohibit ex post facto laws: Art 1, § 9 and Art. 1 § 10. see, e.g. Collins v. Youngblood, 497 US 37 (1990) and California Dep’t of Corrections v. Morales, 514 US 499 (1995).
Nolo plain English dictionary definition of ex post facto:Latin for “after the fact.” Refers to laws adopted after an act is committed, making it illegal retroactively. Or, it can refer to laws that increase the penalty for a crime after it is committed. Such laws are specifically prohibited by the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 9.
No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
Section 10 is a bit more obscure, but still relevant:
No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility.
Similarly, consider that the concept of double jeopardy might also apply:
According to the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Granted, both of these concepts are usually applied to criminal law, but consider this: if you don’t pay your retroactive taxes, you are effectively a criminal and prosecutable under the law (unless you are appointed to be be Treasury chief or Chair of the tax writing House Ways and Means committee ….), and any legislation from the governor or the legislature is the law.
You could even look at this as a violation of a contract between the government and the taxpayer.
Most importantly and frighteningly, in the long run, given the government’s hunger for new revenue, will they inevitably find a way to make the imposition of retroactive taxes extend beyond the current tax year, once they run out of ways to tax haircuts and public bathroom usage?
I hope I haven’t given them any ideas…
To put this in more relevant terms, imagine if you strolled down to you local big box store six months ago and purchased a flat screen television. What would you say if that store called you up today and said that they have to give you a retroactive price increase on said TV because they overspent on stock, or had to fund raises for their employees, or bought some square footage in a mall they didn’t need and couldn’t afford? Would you laugh, just hang up or call your lawyer? Would you be sucked into paying the money? I doubt it. So why now?