August 24, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Aspen’s Bag Surcharge is Cost Aimed at Waste Reduction, Not Tax Subject to TABOR

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Colorado Union of Taxpayers Foundation v. City of Aspen on Monday, May 21, 2018.

Taxation—Constitutional Law—Local Government Law.

The supreme court considered whether a $0.20 charge on paper bags is a tax subject to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). The court held that if the primary purpose of a charge is to raise revenue for the general expenses of government, the charge is a tax. Conversely, the court concluded that a charge is not a tax if the primary purpose of a charge is to defray the reasonable direct and indirect costs of providing a service or regulating an activity, because such a charge does not raise revenue for the general expense of government.

After analyzing the charge in this case, the court held that this charge is not a tax. Aspen imposed this charge as part of a regulatory program aimed at waste management, and the $0.20 charge for the right to use a paper bag bears a reasonable relationship to Aspen’s cost of permitting that use. Because this charge is a not a tax, it is exempt from TABOR’s requirements.

The court affirmed the court of appeals’ judgment.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

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