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Justices Side With Tribe Over Multi-Million Dollar Fuel Tax

March 19, 2019, 3:31 PM

A Yakama-owned business won’t have to pay a more than $3 million tax bill after the U.S. Supreme Court said the tax was preempted by a 1855 treaty.

Justice Neil Gorsuch sided with the court’s more liberal justices in a 5-4 decision finding that Washington’s fuel tax couldn’t be applied to Cougar Den, the Yamaka-owned fuel-importer.

The five-justice majority, however, split to create a 3-2 plurality for the court. The five justices in the majority disagreed over which specific provision in the 1855 treaty preempted the tax, but all agreed that it was indeed preempted.

The case is Washington State Dept. of Licensing v. Cougar Den, U.S., No. 16-1498, 3/19/19

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