Cayuga, Seneca Counties Seek Supreme Court Hearing on Cigarette Tax Dispute

Cayuga and Seneca counties were expected to file a request yesterday with the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their cigarette tax dispute case with the Cayuga Indian Nation, reports.

Philip Spellane, lawyer for the counties, promised to meet Monday’s filing deadline seeking a hearing from the nation’s top court to hear their appeal.

In June, the counties promised an appeal of a May decision by New York’s top court ruling the Cayugas did not have to pay taxes on its cigarette sales, whether to residents or non-residents.

New York’s Court of Appeals based its decision on two factors: the Cayugas’ stores lie on reservation land under New York law; and there is no system to collect sales tax on their cigarettes.

Spellane said he would specifically appeal the first point in his filing with the U.S. Supreme Court, contending that the stores do not in fact rest on reservation land.

“We believe the (court of appeals) relied on an interpretation of federal law that we believe is incorrect….This is not sovereign land and should not be treated as sovereign land,’’ Spellane said.

The counties sued the Cayugas, claiming they held an unfair competitive advantage over New York’s tax-paying tobacco retailers.


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