YAKIMA, Wash. – A case questioning whether a fuel retailer from the Yakama Nation is subject to the state gas tax will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 30, according to the court’s calendar.
For years the Cougar Den – owned by Yakama tribal member Kip Ramsey and operated on the reservation – has battled the state Department of Licensing over taxation, with the Cougar Den victorious in two lower courts.
Now, the Department of Licensing is seeking a review by the nation’s highest court, which earlier this year agreed to assess the matter.
At issue is whether the Cougar Den, a fuel station and convenience store deep within the reservation in White Swan is subject to the state fuel tax.
On the reservation, tribal members are exempt cigarette, fuel and retail taxes. But the Department of Licensing for years has complained the exemption often leads to non-Native Americans flocking to reservation shops to avoid state taxes.
In this particular case, judges in Yakima County Superior Court and the Washington State Supreme Court have taken Ramsey’s side, saying his Cougar Den – which buys wholesale fuel from outside the state – isn’t subject to state taxation because of a clause in its treaty with the federal government guaranteeing tribal members a right to freely travel and bring goods to market.
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