Opinion: No state taxation on Indian businesses

"The News editorial 'Collect tax from non-Indians' overlooks basic U.S. Constitution provisions that treaties are the 'supreme law of the land' and Congress has sole authority 'to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.'

In 1948, Congress granted that New York's criminal laws were applicable to Indian reservations. In 1950, Congress passed Indian Law 233 granting New York civil jurisdiction to hear disputes involving Indians. Congress specified: 'Nothing in this section shall be construed as subjecting the lands within any Indian reservation in the state of New York to taxation for state or local purposes. . . .'

A 1992 memorandum submitted by a then-state tax commissioner to a legislative committee relating to taxation of gasoline and cigarettes sold to non-Indians on Indian reservations stated: 'Despite the fact that New York once sought a specific congressional delegation of general civil authority over Indians and Indian reservations, Congress has not given New York such authority. New York's general civil laws - including its tax laws - are not, therefore, automatically applicable to tribe members on reservations.' It added:

'The purported grant of civil jurisdiction contained in 24 U.S.C. 233 is virtually identical to that of another federal statute which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bryan v. Itasca County, was not a general grant of authority over Indians and reservations, but only opened up state courts to tribe members.'"

Get the Story:
Joseph F. Crangle: The standards are clear: No tax on Indian lands (The Buffalo News 1/24)

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