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]


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.

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