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U.S. Supreme Court to Seminole Tribe: Pay your utility tax

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The U.S. Supreme Court has effectively decided that the Seminole Tribe of Florida has to pay its utility tax—just like everybody else.

The court on Monday, without comment, decided not to consider an appeal of a case in which the tribe contested having to pay tax on its electric and other utility bills.

That lets stand an 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against the tribe.

The Seminoles said having to pay such tax violated their tribal sovereignty.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ website explains that “American Indians and Alaska Natives … pay the same taxes as other citizens” with a few exceptions, including as state sales and local property taxes.

The state’s Department of Revenue had previously argued that the tribe wasn’t actually being taxed, the utility companies are. They just pass along that cost to all customers.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at

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