Tribal Member Challenges Oklahoma Tax Commission After SCOTUS Jurisdiction Ruling

Thousands of Oklahomans argue they do not have to pay Oklahoma income tax after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on tribal jurisdiction that applied to criminal cases.

Tuesday, May 30th 2023, 10:59 pm



Thousands of Oklahomans argue they do not have to pay Oklahoma income tax after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on tribal jurisdiction that applied to criminal cases.

One of those pending cases is from an Okmulgee woman, and the case is now sitting at the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Alicia Stroble's case has been in the court system for a year and a half. Stroble’s attorney said the back and forth has to do with the legal definition of "Indian Country" for income tax law, and what comes out of it could impact many tribal citizens.

It is a case over which tribal members would be exempt from paying income taxes in Oklahoma.

"You must be a member of a federally-recognized tribe - number one,” explained Michael Parks, Stroble's attorney. “Number two: you must earn your income from a source within the Indian Country of the tribe you're a member of. And then third, you must live within the Indian Country of the tribe that you are a member of. You must satisfy all three requirements."

Parks said his client, a Muscogee (Creek) citizen, meets all these requirements, so she should not have to pay her 2017 through 2019 income taxes.

Parks said Stroble filed a tax protest after the Oklahoma Tax Commission denied her exemption request, and the case went before an administrative law judge, who is an employee of the OTC.

The judge ruled in Stroble's favor, but then the three commissioners, who are political appointees of the OTC, reversed the ruling.

That is when Stroble filed an appeal with the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Governor Kevin Stitt gave News On 6 this statement: “I will always fight for fairness, and it is just preposterous to believe that in this scenario a single mom of a different race would have to pay taxes but I, as governor, wouldn’t because of my native heritage. The reality is we all drive on the same roads, send our kids to the same schools-we should all play by the same set of rules regardless of race."

Several tribes, including the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Cherokee Nations, also filed briefings, siding with Stroble.

"A lot of people make that mistake that this is about race when really it's about being a citizen of a government, and it's about who has authority over you,” said Sara Hill, Cherokee Nation Attorney General. “It's not that no one has authority over Indians on a reservation. It's that the tribe has authority over Indians on a reservation."

A 2020 OTC report estimates the impact of an income tax exemption for the Muscogee Nation alone would be $21 million a year.

"I do believe that the opinion in this case, good or bad, will affect many Indian citizens living in the state of Oklahoma," said Parks.

Next, the Oklahoma Supreme Court will either decide on this case based on everything that has been submitted or set a date for oral arguments, as requested. The date has not been set.

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