Courts have often held that tribal citizens are free of state income taxation if they live and work on their own reservations.
The California Court of Appeal agreed with that position in a recent ruling. The court held that Angelina Mike, a Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians citizen, is obligated to pay state income tax on more than $345,000 she received from her tribe’s gaming operations at Spotlight 29 Casino.
The court so held even tough Mike was living on another tribes’ reservation in 2000 when she got her tribal per capita distribution.
Had Mike been living on Twenty-Nine Palms’ 240-acre section of land, the state of California would have been barred from collecting taxes on the income she derived from her tribe’s reservation.
Mike’s attorney, Richard Freeman, said the March 5 decision is wrong and a tax exemption should be valid because his client was living in “Indian Country,” on the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indian land.