Seneca Nation Gets Stay on Cigarette Taxes

Prepares to appeal recent New York decision

ALBANY, N.Y. -- A New York appeals judge has granted the Seneca Nation a reprieve from the start of state cigarette tax collection until Monday, June 20. The Seneca Nation of Indians requested the stay after State Supreme Court Justice Donna Siwek last Wednesday ruled in favor of the state of New York to begin pre-collecting state excise and sales taxes on cigarettes sold by wholesale distributors to tribal enterprises.

A release from the Seneca Nation said that the stay prevents New York state from enforcing the law, while the Nation's appeal is heard and decided by the [image-nocss] higher court. The decision does not affect other Indian nations.

Nation president Robert Odawi Porter said if the law were to stand, it would mean "good-paying retail jobs, selling a legal product in Western New York, will be lost" and that "there will be no change in the Seneca Nation's stand that it will never collect or impose sales taxes for New York state."

Porter also called immunity from taxes by federal treaty "the law of the land."

At the time of Siwek's ruling, Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS), urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to immediately begin the tax collection.

"Sales of cigarettes in tax-collecting stores have plummeted over the last 10 years as a series of state excise tax hike increases drove more and more non-Indian smokers into the arms of tribal competitors who enjoyed a dramatic and artificial price advantage because they excluded over $5.00 a pack in state taxes," said Calvin.

He said that it was conceivable that the Seneca Nation would appeal the ruling, commence new legal action or "try some other maneuver to prevent the state from moving forward with enforcement." He added, "But ultimately the law is the law, and the state has the right to collect these taxes."