The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision and held that retroactive application of the 2014 revisions to the “prepaid telephone calling card” provision of the Tax Code were unconstitutional as applied to the taxpayer. Taxpayer, an authorized dealer for Boost Mobile (“Boost”), sold Boost prepaid wireless-service plans to customers, but did not collect and remit the sales tax on the transactions. After an audit, the Department of Revenue (“Department”) assessed the taxpayer for the unpaid sales tax on the transaction and took the position that the transactions were subject to the sales tax under the “prepaid telephone calling card” provision of the Tax Code even though, as a Department employee conceded at trial, the type of prepaid wireless service provided by Boost through the taxpayer did not exist when the provision was enacted. While the assessment was being appealed at the Tax Tribunal, the legislature revised the Tax Code to require that the type of prepaid wireless service provided by Boost through the taxpayer would be subject to the sales tax. The revisions also included a provision stating that this change was prospective only except for “audits that began or assessments that were entered” prior to the effective date of the changes. The taxpayer asserted that this retroactive application violated its due process rights. The trial court agreed, holding that the taxpayer was not liable for the sales tax because the revisions, as applied to the taxpayer, were unconstitutional since the changes only applied retroactively to taxpayers who were either under audit or had an assessment entered against them as of the effective date of the revisions but did not apply retroactively to other taxpayers.
On appeal, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, held that the retroactive application of the revisions to some taxpayers but not others “was not supported by a legislative purpose furthered by rational means.” The court disagreed with the Department’s argument that the retroactivity was constitutional because the revisions only clarified the “prepaid telephone calling card” provision of the Tax Code and that this clarification was rational. The court stated that “it was not the clarification … that the trial court determined was not supported by a legislative purpose furthered by rational means; it was [the] retroactive application to a small number of taxpayers … while exempting other taxpayers from the retroactive application[.]” The court also rejected the Department’s argument that that the language of the statute before the revisions made the taxpayer liable for the sales tax. The court stated that the plain language of the statute did not subject the taxpayer’s “receipt of a prepayment for Boost’s wireless service” to the sales tax.