School of Business

United States District Court Rules That Incidence Of Washington State Fuel Tax Lies On Tribal Retailers

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Description: In the Squaxin Island Tribe, Island Enterprises Inc., Swinomish Indian Tribe Community, and Swinomish Development Authority v. Fred Stephens, Director, Washington State Department of Licensing case, a Washington District Court ruled in favor of Indian tribes seeking relief from state fuel taxes. The basic question was whether Washington State can enforce its fuel tax on sales by retailers on tribal land. The tribes alleged that by placing the legal burden of the tax on retailers or fuel stations, the legal incidence of the Washington State's fuel tax impermissibly falls on the tribes. Since the tax is on the tribes, it is not enforceable because there is no clear congressional authorization to enforce the tax. The fact that refunds for uncollected taxes are limited to suppliers and distributors but not retailers in Washington State weighed in favor of the court's decision that the legal incidence of the fuel tax falls on retailers in this case.
Language: English
Format: Article