Wisconsin Federal Court Holds Tax Immunities Do Not Apply to Reacquired Reservation Land

Here are the relevant materials in Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians v. Evers (W.D. Wis.):

153 State Motion for Summary J

171 Towns and Assessors Motion for Summary J

172 Tribe Motion for Summary J

213 Tribe Response to 171

215 Tribe Response to 153

223 State Reply in Support of 153

228 Towns and Assessors Reply in Support of 171

232 Tribe Reply in Support of 172

245 DCT Order

Prior post here.

Cert Petition in Seneca Nation Citizen’s Treaty-Based Tax Immunity Claim

Here is the petition in Perkins v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue:

Perkins v. Commissioner Cert Petition

Question presented:

This Court is presented with a question of first impression, as to the taxability of income derived from the sale of sand and gravel, mined from treatyprotected land by an enrolled member of the Seneca Nation of Indians (“Seneca Nation”). Upon the granting of certiorari, the Court will examine the language in two federal treaties, promising not to disturb the “free use and enjoyment” of lands by the Seneca Nation and “their Indian friends residing thereon and united with them,” and protecting these lands “from all taxes” for any purpose. Treaty with the Six Nations (“Canandaigua Treaty”), art. III, Nov. 11, 1794, 7 Stat. 45; Treaty with the Senecas (“1842 Treaty”), art. 9th, May 20, 1842, 7 Stat. 590. Congress has explicitly stated the Internal Revenue Code “shall be applied to any taxpayer with due regard to any treaty obligation of the United States which applies to such taxpayer.” 26 U.S.C.A. § 894 (a)(1)(West).

The question presented is whether the United States Court of Appeals and the United States Tax Court have given “due regards” to the treaty obligations of the United States by finding these treaties had no textual support for an exemption from federal income tax applicable to an enrolled Seneca member whose income is derived from the
lands of the Seneca Nation. Perkins v. Comm’r, 970 F.3d 148, 162-67 (2d. Cir. 2020).

Lower court materials here.

Materials in Buena Vista Rancheria Tax Suit against Amador County

Here are the materials so far in Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians v. Amador County (E.D. Cal.):

5 Amended Complaint

9 Motion to Dismiss 12b1

10 Motion to Dismiss Forum Non Convenienz

11 Motion to Dismiss 12b6

Prior post here.

Stacy Leeds and Lonnie Beard on the Tax Implications of McGirt v. Oklahoma

Stacy Leeds and Lonnie Beard have posted “A Wealth of Sovereign Choices: Tax Implications of McGirt v. Oklahoma and the Promise of Tribal Economic Development,” forthcoming in the Tulsa Law Review, on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Justice Neil Gorsuch’s now famous opening line in McGirt v. Oklahoma will long be remembered by Indigenous nations as one of the most powerful judicial statements in the history of federal Indian law. “On the far end of the Trail of Tears was a promise.”

For that promise to be fully realized, the McGirt decision must lead to more than just increased criminal justice system responsibilities for the federal government and the impacted Indigenous nations, collectively known as the “Five Tribes.” The promise at the end of the wholesale removal and relocation of Five Tribes was not simply an empty promise of geographic boundaries, it also included a permanent homeland with fully functioning tribal governments, including powers of taxation. With the re-affirmation of reservation boundaries and the re-assumption of many governmental responsibilities, the Five Tribes necessarily have the power to raise meaningful revenue to govern.

The promise must also include diverse economic development strategies conceived of and implemented by the Five Tribes in order to take advantage of and fully realize McGirt’s newly reaffirmed reservation status. If this challenge is accepted, the Five Tribes have an opportunity to reconfirm and expand government powers that have been denied them for over a century, including the power to make the same sovereign tax choices afforded other sovereigns worldwide.

This article explores the tax implications of the McGirt decision with detailed analysis of what has changed, and what remains the same, for purposes of federal, tribal and state taxing authority. The article suggests several law and policy choices available to the Five Tribes, including how to maximize tax incentives to grow the reservation population base and support a diverse economy through small business and enterprise scale development. The article includes a call to action for tribal governments to formulate a long-term economic strategy that will take advantage of tax attributes that attach to the various reservations. In conclusion, the article suggests possible compact arrangements with other Indigenous nations and with Oklahoma’s state and local governments.

McGirt has been heralded as ushering in substantial changes for the eastern half of Oklahoma. If tribes and Oklahoma play their collective economic cards right, big change could come in the form of positive economic outcomes. Economists predict, or at least hope for, a post-COVID economic revival for rural communities in America’s heartland. To assist in this economic revival, the Five Tribes’ reservations could serve as laboratories for the formulation of economic development strategies that could serve as blueprints for other parts of rural America. For that to happen in eastern Oklahoma, McGirt will need to live up to its full potential, becoming much more than an overturned criminal conviction from inside Indian country.

Oklahoma SCT Punts (I Don’t Mean in a Bad Way) on State and Tribal Taxes on Nonmembers on Creek Nation Restricted Lands

Here is the opinion in Warehouse Market Inc. v. State of Oklahoma ex rel. Oklahoma Tax Commission.

Briefs:

Oklahoma Brief

Warehouse Market Brief

Reply

An excerpt:

The plaintiff/appellee, Warehouse Market subleased a commercial building from the defendant Pinnacle Management, Inc. The building is on federally restricted Indian land. Subsequently, the defendant/appellant, Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Office of Tax Commission (Tribe) both sought to collect sales tax from Warehouse Market. Warehouse Market filed an interpleader action in the District Court of Okmulgee County, in an attempt to have the court determine which entity to pay. However, the trial court dismissed the Tribe because it had no jurisdiction over it because of the Tribe’s sovereign immunity. The trial court then determined that the OTC could not be entitled to the sales tax unless and until the dispute between the OTC and the Tribe was resolved in another forum or tribunal. The OTC appealed and we retained the appeal. We hold that because the substance of Warehouse Market’s action/request for relief is a tax protest, exhaustion of administrative remedies is a jurisdictional prerequisite to seeking relief in the trial court.

New Scholarship on Taxing Indian Country Cannabis

Mark J. Cowan has posted “Taxing Cannabis on the Reservation,” forthcoming in the American Business Law Journal, on SSRN.

The abstract:

American Indian tribes that enter the cannabis industry confront a multi-sovereign tax system that lacks certainty and horizontal equity. The complex interaction of state legalization and taxation of cannabis, federal tax law, the status of tribes as both governments and business enterprises, and the legal and tax landscape in Indian country can give tribes tax advantages and disadvantages compared to off-reservation cannabis dispensaries. This article analyzes these tax issues, examines them in the context of prior challenges posed by Indian gaming, and suggests reforms that address the tax inequities that can result from cannabis sales on Indian reservations.