Ninth Circuit Determines Tribal Corporation May Be Subject to State Taxation Laws

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Snell & Wilmer[co-author: Kelsey Haake, Summer Associate]

On June 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the district court properly dismissed the claims of Big Sandy Rancheria Enterprises (“Big Sandy”), a federally chartered tribal corporation of the Western Mono Indians, against the Attorney General of California and the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration. Big Sandy, a wholesale cigarette distributor, asserted that California’s cigarette excise tax did not apply to its wholesale cigarette distribution business when distributed directly to other Indian tribes. Big Sandy also claimed that because it was a tribally owned and operated company, California’s regulations surrounding cigarette distributions and the licensing, reporting and recordkeeping requirements did not apply to it and are preempted by the federal Indian Trader Statutes.

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