Monday, June 03, 2013

The left's unmistakable trend toward weaponizing the tax code

What the IRS was doing behind closed doors may soon be official policy in California
writes Benjamin Duffy in his post on conservatives Staring Down the Barrel of Weaponized Tax Code.
Last week, the State Senate voted to revoke the nonprofit status of any group within the state that does not allow full participation of homosexuals, a move aimed directly at the Boy Scouts of America. According to the Associated Press, the bill “would require those organizations to pay corporate taxes on donations, membership dues, camp fees and other sources of income, and to obtain sellers permits and pay sales taxes on food, beverages and homemade items sold at fundraisers.”   Groups that sponsor troops would also have their tax returns and membership policies scrutinized by the Franchise Tax Board, California’s version of the IRS.

If further proof was needed that the BSA’s partial surrender on the homosexual issue only emboldened their opponents, here it is. Compromise is not in the left’s vocabulary. Not until Dan Savage is taking your son camping will they be happy, and probably not even then.

The thread that connects California’s proposed tax policy with the IRS scandal of recent weeks is the unmistakable trend toward weaponizing the tax code. What was once a neutral instrument used for the purpose of collecting revenue for legitimate governmental functions is now employed to punish behavior that powerful people don’t like. Lois Lerner of IRS infamy had a concealed carry permit but the State of California is carrying theirs right out in the open.

The government can indeed punish citizens monetarily. Until recently, monetary punishments were called “fines” and they were extracted for offenses such as parking in front of a fire hydrant.

California cannot however, fine the Boy Scouts for their membership policy. Thirteen years ago the Boy Scouts fought and won a legal case called Boy Scouts v. Dale, which affirmed the organization’s right to freely associate. Private organizations are private and, as such, have the right to set their own membership requirements. Membership in a private club is not an equal rights issue.

Yet the totalitarian impulse of Left Coast liberals knows no bounds. What was once called a “fine” is now called a “tax” and is specifically targeted at ostracized groups such as the Boy Scouts, even if what they are doing has been upheld as constitutionally protected behavior by the Supreme Court. If the tax code were an “assault rifle,” the Boy Scouts would be looking down the barrel of it.

A fine by any other name is still a fine. Fines disguised as taxes that are used to punish constitutionally protected behavior are unconstitutional. It would be no different than having a free speech tax or a free exercise of religion tax, both of which the left would love, I’m sure.
 … The precedent is chilling. The tax code could be used to punish churches that don’t recognize same-sex marriages or prefer only male clergy. Religious organizations could be required to include atheists. Liberals should worry too. If California can point the muzzle of their tax code at the Boy Scouts for refusing to allow homosexual adult leaders, Arkansas can do the same thing because the BSA now permits homosexual youth. It would be just as wrong for socially conservative states to use their tax code to punish groups it doesn’t like. This one trend that’s bad for goose and gander alike.
Update: thanks to Instapundit for the link