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Having reference to things that happened in the past, prior to the occurrence of the act in question.

A retroactive or retrospective law is one that takes away or impairs vested rights acquired under existing laws, creates new obligations, imposes new duties, or attaches a new and different legal effect to transactions or considerations already past. Common-law principles do not favor the retroactive effect of laws in the majority of cases, and canons of legislative construction presume that legislation is not intended as retroactive unless its language expressly makes it retroactive.

Retroactive criminal laws that increase punishment for acts committed prior to their enactments are deemed Ex Post Facto Laws and are unenforceable because they violate Article I, Section 9, Clause 3, and Section 10, Clause 1, of the U.S. Constitution and comparable provisions of state constitutions.


adj. referring to a court's decision or a statute enacted by a legislative body, which would result in an application to past transactions and legal actions. In criminal law, statutes which would increase penalties or make criminal activities which had been previously legal are prohibited by the Constitutional ban on ex post facto laws (Article I, Section 9). Most court decisions which change the elements necessary to prove a crime or the introduction of evidence such as confessions are usually made non-retroactive to prevent a flood of petitions of people convicted under prior rules. Nor can statutes or court decisions take away "vested" property rights or change contract rights. However, some decisions are so fundamental to justice they may have a retroactive effect, depending on the balance on stability of the law balanced against the public good. Retroactive is also called "retrospective." (See: ex post facto)


adjective affecting the past, beginning before, commencing before, effective before, having prior application, having prior effect, operational before, starting before, taking effect before
Associated concepts: ex post facto, retroactive effect
See also: ex post facto
References in periodicals archive ?
In section 351/section 368(a)(1)(B) overlap situations, taxpayers may very well wish not to apply the regulations retroactively, thereby avoiding being subject to section 367(a).
The Department assessed A SBT retroactively to 1989.
638 (1984), should be applied retroactively because it was "clearly foreshadowed" by earlier Supreme Court decisions.
The zero net rate would apply retroactively if "the statute of limitations has not expired with respect to either the underpayment or overpayment.
TEI believes that even if the IRS has the authority to apply the section 461(h) regulations in respect of state property taxes retroactively (back to July 18, 1984), it should choose not to do so.
Retroactively requiring the use of monthly debt levels will force taxpayers to recompute the amount of 1987 and 1988 interest expense subject to the post-1986 allocation rules, in some cases necessitating the filing of amended returns.
But the 1996 legislation was retroactively applied to pre-1996 convictions.
The credit expired June 30, 1998, but there is speculation that (as in prior years) it will be retroactively restored.
courts as applying retroactively to conduct that may have occurred years, sometimes decades, before the statute was passed.
The Eleventh Circuit ruled that a plan administrator that followed IRS procedures for retroactively amending plans to comply with certain nondiscrimination provisions could thereby retroactively reduce accrued benefits.
The formula also would be applied retroactively, requiring HMOs to pay the city nearly $8 million in back taxes that are disputed.
Its unique features are using pure quantitative input and never retroactively modifying its forecasts.