Moore and Retroactivity – The Readers Digest Version
"The Little Red Transition Tax Book" – Everything you need to know about the 965bmandatory repatriation tax but didn't know to ask. A horrific abuse of #Americansabroad in a @citizenshiptax and #FATCA world! https://t.co/j7v1Asreek
— U.S. Transition Tax – Subpart F and #GILTI (@USTransitionTax) June 26, 2023
This history of the Moore case is described by Professors Brooks and Gamage as follows:
The taxpayers brought suit challenging the MRT, arguing that it was an unapportioned direct tax and therefore in violation of the Constitution.25 (They also argued that its seeming retroactivity was in violation of the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment,26 though this was not the main focus of the case, nor did the dissenters address it, nor do the petitioners raise the issue in the cert petition, so we put that claim aside.27) The district court dismissed the claim, and a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit unanimously affirmed the dismissal.28 The taxpayers’ subsequent petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc was denied.29
The Chamber of Commerce’s amicus cert brief filed on March 27, 2023 included on page 18:
The Constitution imposes numerous safeguards that prevent the government from making rapid changes that would unsettle expectations. Such principles “find expression in several [constitutional] provisions,” Landgraf v. USI Film Prods., 511 U.S. 244, 265 (1994), and often implicate tax laws.
First, “a retroactive tax provision [can be] so harsh and oppressive as to transgress the constitutional lim-itation” of due process. Carlton, 512 U.S. at 30. When “Congress act[s] promptly and establishe[s] only a modest period of retroactivity,” like “only slightly greater than one year,” a tax law’s retroactive effect has been deemed permissible. Id. at 32–33. But a tax law that deals with a “novel development” regarding “a transfer that occurred 12 years earlier” has been held unconstitutional. Id. at 34 (discussing Nichols v. Coolidge, 274 U.S. 531 (1927)). Here, of course, the Ninth Circuit called the MRT a “novel concept,” and it reached back—not one, not twelve—but more than thirty years into the past, long after companies made decisions about where to locate their long-term as- sets.2 App 6. The MRT’s aggressive retroactivity showcases the danger of unmooring income from its defining principle of realization. Erasing the realization requirement upends taxpayer expectations—leaving them looking over their shoulders for what unrealized gain Congress might next call “income.”