The Florida 4th District Court of Appeal rejected the tribe’s lawsuit filed against the Department of Revenue to seek a refund for sales and excise taxes paid between January 2004 and February 2006. The tribe purchased the fuel off the reservation but used it on tribal lands to perform its tribal functions. As a sovereign government, they should not be taxed, the tribe argued.
The tribe provided documents concerning where the fuel purchases were made, but they kept no logs to show when the purchases were made or when and where the vehicles were used, according to the Florida Department of Revenue v. The Seminole Tribe court paper.
While a trial judge took sides with the tribe, the state’s Department of Revenue contended the taxes were correctly levied on fuel purchases off-site.
In a unanimous ruling, the court determined the tribe can’t use its sovereignty to shield from state taxation. “Off-reservation transactions, even by tribal members, are susceptible of [state] taxation without running afoul of the Indian Commerce Clause,” the court wrote.