Oklahoma Tax Comm'n v. Sac and Fox Nation, 508 U.S. 114 (1993)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the tenth circuit

No. 92-259. Argued March 23, 1993—Decided May 17, 1993

Respondent Sac and Fox Nation (Tribe) is a federally recognized Indian tribe located in Oklahoma. It brought this action seeking a permanent injunction barring petitioner Oklahoma Tax Commission (Commission) from, among other things, taxing the income of tribal members who work or reside within tribal jurisdiction, and imposing the State's motor vehicle excise tax and registration fees on tribal members who live and garage their cars principally on tribal land and register those cars with the Tribe. In large part, the Tribe based its claims of immunity from those state taxes on McClanahan v. Arizona State Tax Comm'n, 411 U. S. 164, in which the Court held that a State could not subject a tribal member living on the reservation, and whose income derived from reservation sources, to a state income tax absent an express authorization from Congress. The Commission responded that the State had complete taxing jurisdiction over the Tribe because McClanahan and the Court's other immunity cases applied only to tribes on established reservations, whereas the Tribe's 1891 Treaty with the Government disestablished the Sac and Fox Reservation in favor of allotments of trust land for individual tribal members. In affirming the District Court's rulings on cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court of Appeals held, among other things, that the income of tribal members who work for the Tribe was immune from state taxation under McClanahan and Oklahoma Tax Comm'n v. Citizen Band of Potawatomi Tribe of Okla., 498 U. S. 505. In so ruling, the court rejected the Commission's contention that the tribal member's residence was relevant in addition to the status of the land on which the income was earned. The court also concluded that the State's vehicle taxes were flatly prohibited under Moe v. Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Flathead Reservation, 425 U. S. 463, and Washington v. Confederated Tribes of Colville Reservation, 447 U. S. 134.

Held: Absent explicit congressional direction to the contrary, it must be presumed that a State does not have jurisdiction to tax tribal members who live and work in Indian country, whether the particular territory consists of a formal or informal reservation, allotted lands, or dependent Indian communities. Pp. 123-128.

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