DA: Notice of appeal to be filed in cigarette tax ruling

Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann intends to file a notice of appeal regarding a mid-level appeals court ruling Friday that said the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York can legally sell untaxed cigarettes at its Union Springs and Seneca Falls stores.
In a press release issued late Friday night, Budelmann said a notice of appeal would be filed to “preserve our rights as we analyze the decision further.”

The 4-1 Appellate Division ruling determined that the Cayugas’ businesses are on “qualified reservation” land as defined by state tax law. And because the state has failed to implement a coupon system to allow tribes to sell untaxed cigarettes to Indian customers while selling taxed cigarettes to non-Indian customers, the Cayugas can’t be prosecuted for tax evasion.

“Our position is that the Cayuga Indian Nation benefits from the same infrastructure and services as the taxpayers of Cayuga County, but they do not pay their fair share of the cost,” Budelmann said. “As a result, those obeying the tax laws are forced to pay more.

The Cayugas have said they intend to sue the counties — Seneca County joined Cayuga County in this investigation — to recover the value of seized cigarettes as well as lost revenue.

“We knew this was going to be a challenging endeavor, but it is not in my nature to shy away from tough cases,” Budelmann said. “While I may not win every battle, I will not stop pursuing those who violate the law.”

The counties had also argued that the Cayugas did not have right to file the civil lawsuit in an effort to stop a criminal investigation, a view supported by the state District Attorneys Association. But the court ruled that in cases where issues of constitutional rights are involved, such a case may be brought.

“When we first decided to start our investigation in mid-2008 it was because our analysis indicated that taxes were due on all sales to non-Indians,” Budelmann said. “After months of litigation we still firmly believe that (state tax law requiring collection on sales to non-Indians) is valid and applies to all cigarettes sold in New York to non-Indians. We also believe that millions of dollars in sales tax are due on all sales from the convenience stores.

“We further believe that the United States Supreme Court has already made an unqualified determination that there is no Cayuga reservation, hence the land in trust proceedings.”

source: http://www.auburnpub.com

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