N.Y. Debates Method of Tax Collection at Native American Businesses

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N.Y. Debates Method of Tax Collection at Native American Businesses

ALBANY -- With the recent passage of the New York state budget, which contained a measure aimed at collecting taxes at Native American-owned businesses, the debate turns to how those taxes will be collected.

"It's the law, and Governor [Eliot] Spitzer has indicated he thinks it's an appropriate law,'' spokeswoman for the governor, Christine Pritchard, told the Utica Observer-Dispatch. "The manner is simply not finalized."

The budget calls for the collection of about $200 million in sales tax revenue on gasoline and cigarettes for the 2007 to 2008 fiscal years from Native American retailers. The governor’s administration recently reached out to all Native American nations across the state to discuss revenue-sharing, said assemblywoman RoAnn Destito.

"I think it’s probably a way to get some taxes collected -- right now we have none,'' she said.

However, there are opponents to this process.

"There can be no deals between government officials and tribal entities that go around compliance with the law,'' David Vickers, president of the Upstate Citizens for Equality, told the paper. "All of the sales from Indians to non-Indians need to be exactly the same way and anything less than that is unacceptable."

Native American tribes have opposed the collection of the tax, stating that it violates past treaties and would infringe on their sovereignty, the report stated. Oneida Nation spokesman Mark Emery told the paper that the group is currently reviewing the state budget, but declined to comment further.

Meanwhile, supporters are hoping that any plans put in place will be carried through because it would be fair to other businesses.

"When and if he does that, it will be a major step of leveling the playing field between Indian and non-Indian retailers when it comes to the price of a pack of cigarettes and a gallon of gas,'' said Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS).

The players with the most to gain will be the state’s residents, said assemblyman David Townsend.

"The big issue is the amount of money the county of Oneida and the government will get from this,'' he told the paper. "If the county has more money come in through sales tax, they can reduce the tax burden on the property owners.''