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Can States Tax Gas Stations on Tribal Lands?

Can States Tax Gas Stations on Tribal Lands?

After years of fights between Washington state and the Yakama Nation, the debate is heading to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Yakama Nation and Washington state have been fighting over governance issues ever since the tribe signed its 1855 treaty with the federal government. Recently, those fights have involved fees on cigarettes and rules for logging trucks. But the biggest dispute over the years has been about fuel taxes. And now the U.S. Supreme Court is stepping in.

Washington state lawmakers have tried repeatedly to impose fuel taxes on Indian tribes, and the tribes have repeatedly fought back. The Yakama have been especially adamant in their resistance, arguing that the fuel taxes violate a provision of their treaty that guarantees them the right to travel freely on public highways.

The Yakama convinced the Washington Supreme Court to uphold their exemption even though lawmakers crafted the current tax in 2007 to avoid the legal pitfalls of previous fuel tax levies that Native Americans were able to avoid. The state high court’s decision in March was such a jolt to state taxing authority that Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming supported Washington’s last-ditch effort to get the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the ruling and reimpose the tax... FULL ARTICLE

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