Reaction to Today’s Colorado Appellate Court Decision

Date: March 02, 2017

News Release--Small-business group disappointed TABOR violation remains undecided

Contact: Karen Harned, NFIB Small Business Legal Center,, or Tony Gagliardi, NFIB Colorado State Director,

DENVER, Colo., March 2, 2017—The state’s leading small-business association expressed its disappointment over an appellate court decision issued today in NFIB’s lawsuit challenging the fees assessed on small business to fund the state’s general elections operation and other unrelated costs.

“While we are glad the court overturned a lower court decision that had dismissed our complaint, we are disappointed that the appellate court could not see this case as the straight-up violation of TABOR that it so obviously is,” said Karen Harned, executive director of the Small Business Legal Center at the National Federation of Independent Business. “We think the law is clear, and the secretary of state’s office violated it.”

At issue is whether Colorado’s secretary of state violated the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) by imposing excessive licensing fees on small businesses to finance programs entirely unrelated to the provision of any service to those companies. “Because a significant portion of the business licensing charges are appropriated to defray the Secretary of State’s general expenses, the business licensing charges are a tax and not ‘a fee.’ Thus, the state is imposing an illegal tax on small businesses to fund obligations that should be a cost shared by everyone,” said Harned.

NFIB’s complaint, originally filed against former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, alleges that the state collects approximately $20 million per year from businesses that are required to file certain documents with the state. The money, however, is also used to run the state’s elections operations, regulate bingos and raffles, and conduct other functions not related to businesses. The office receives no money from the state’s general fund. 

NFIB has vowed to continue the fight. Today’s appellate court decision can be read here.


For more than 70 years, the National Federation of Independent Business has been the Voice of Small Business, taking the message from Main Street to the halls of Congress and all 50 state legislatures. NFIB annually surveys its members on state and federal issues vital to their survival as America’s economic engine and biggest creator of jobs. NFIB’s educational mission is to remind policymakers that small businesses are not smaller versions of bigger businesses; they have very different challenges and priorities.

National Federation of Independent Business/Colorado
1580 Logan St. Suite 520
Denver, CO 80203
Twitter: @NFIB_CO

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