Federal court throws out American Indian cigarette tax injunction

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Updated at 3 p.m. to include Cuomo’s comments.

A federal court today threw out an injunction preventing the state from collecting cigarette taxes on American Indian reservations, the latest in a long line of back-and-forth decisions in the decades-long battle over the state’s right to tax Indian nations.

The ruling, handed down by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, reverses an October decision that put the injunction in place, opening the door for the state to begin collecting taxes on cigarettes sold on the sovereign land.

The appeal was filed by the Oneida Nation of New York, the Seneca Nation of Indians, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, and the Unkechauge Indian Nation.

“Plaintiffs all argue that New York’s amended tax law interferes with their tribal sovereignty and violates their immunity from state taxation,” the decision reads. “We conclude that none of the Plaintiffs has demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will move to collect the tax.

“I have always said that taxes on cigarettes sold to non-tribal members must be collected because this is revenue rightly owed to the state and, with this decision, my administration will move to do so expeditiously,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Native American Court Case

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