TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Washington State Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Seattle’s Gun Tax

Seattle Times, Washington State Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Seattle’s Gun Tax:

The Washington state Supreme Court has upheld Seattle’s tax on gun and ammunition sales, according to an opinion issued Thursday morning.

The justices ruled 8-1 to affirm a previous decision by King County Superior Court, which sided with the city against opponents, including the National Rifle Association.

The city has been imposing the tax of $25 per firearm and 2 or 5 cents per round of ammunition for more than a year and a half, following City Council passage in 2015. During that time, the lawsuit brought by the tax’s opponents has been moving through the courts.

The plaintiffs have said the tax violates a Washington law that bans cities from regulating firearms, reserving that authority for the state. Seattle claims the tax is legal because taxation is different from regulation.

The majority opinion concluded in part that the city’s ordinance does impose a tax, rather than a regulation, on firearms “because its primary purpose is to raise revenue for the public benefit.”...

“Under Washington law, a charge intended to raise revenue for the public benefit is a tax,” Justice Debra L. Stephens wrote in Thursday’s majority opinion.

“While courts should be dubious of regulations masquerading as taxes (and vice versa),” the opponents of Seattle’s tax offered “no convincing evidence that the ordinance has a regulatory purpose or intent,” Stephens added....

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Nobody is being fooled by this explanation, except the Washington State Supreme Court.
It will be interesting to see how high they can raise the tax before it starts to offend state preemption of firearms regulations. And if they can get away with it for this, what is next on the coercive utopian radar?

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Aug 16, 2017 3:56:04 AM