Eleventh Circuit - Seminole tribe not exempt from Florida tax on fuel 

May 5:  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit today affirmed the dismissal of a complaint filed by the Seminole Tribe against the Florida Department of Revenue and its director, claiming that the tribe is exempt from paying a Florida tax on fuel and for an injunction requiring a refund of taxes paid. Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Dep’t of Revenue, 13-10566 (11th Cir. May 5, 2014)

Read the Eleventh Circuit’s decision [PDF 127 KB]

Summary

The Seminole Tribe contended that a Florida tax on motor and diesel fuel purchased off tribal lands violates the Indian Commerce Clause, provisions of the U.S. Constitution, and the Indian sovereignty doctrine.


A Florida state court previously rejected a complaint by the tribe concerning these state fuel taxes. The tribe then filed a federal complaint about the fuel taxes paid between 2009 and 2012. The district court dismissed the federal complaint based on a judicial doctrine that bars federal district courts from reviewing state court judgments and, alternatively, under the Tax Injunction Act.


The Eleventh Circuit majority today affirmed the dismissal of the tribe’s compliant, but did not decide the correctness of the district court’s findings, instead holding that the Department of Revenue and its director enjoy sovereign immunity from this suit.


A separate opinion, concurring in part and dissenting in part, disagreed with the majority decision with respect to the tribe’s request for a declaratory judgment against Florida, that the future imposition of certain fuel taxes would violate the U.S. Constitution.




©2014 KPMG LLP, a Delaware limited liability partnership and the U.S. member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. All rights reserved.


The KPMG logo and name are trademarks of KPMG International.


KPMG International is a Swiss cooperative that serves as a coordinating entity for a network of independent member firms. KPMG International provides no audit or other client services. Such services are provided solely by member firms in their respective geographic areas. KPMG International and its member firms are legally distinct and separate entities. They are not and nothing contained herein shall be construed to place these entities in the relationship of parents, subsidiaries, agents, partners, or joint venturers. No member firm has any authority (actual, apparent, implied or otherwise) to obligate or bind KPMG International or any member firm in any manner whatsoever.


The information contained in herein is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavor to provide accurate and timely information, there can be no guarantee that such information is accurate as of the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. No one should act on such information without appropriate professional advice after a thorough examination of the particular situation.


Direct comments, including requests for subscriptions, to us-kpmgwnt@kpmg.com.
For more information, contact KPMG's Federal Tax Legislative and Regulatory Services Group at:

+ 1 202 533 4366

1801 K Street NW
Washington, DC 20006.