Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Reaches Settlement in Tribal Member Use Tax Case

AKWESASNE, NY – On January 2nd, the U.S. District Court for Northern New York approved an agreement between the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe and Franklin County settling the parties’ dispute over the county’s assessment of its vehicle use tax on members of the tribe. The settlement will exempt qualified tribal members from payment of a bi-annual county vehicle use tax and provide refunds. 

The tribe filed a lawsuit in April 2023 as a result of years of unsuccessful efforts with the county to adopt and implement a tax exemption form for Mohawk tribal members who live on and garage their motor vehicles on the Saint Regis Mohawk reservation. 

The tribe’s complaint in the case cites numerous instances going back over the last 10 years where the tribe has complained about the tax assessments and formally requested action by the county to cease its collection. Under the terms of the settlement, Franklin County has revised its County Vehicle Use Tax Exemption Certificate to add a tribal member exemption on its exempt form.

Until now, there are only exemptions for non-county residents, non-profits, and farm vehicles. 

In addition, the settlement will allow qualified tribal members to obtain refunds for any Franklin County vehicle tax they paid within the last 10 years. Tribal members will be required to show proof of membership, paid the fee, and the fee was on a vehicle that was garaged on the reservation. The tribe will assist tribal members with their claim forms. 

“The amount of the vehicle tax is relatively small – $20 every two years, but no matter how small the amount, it is money that members should not have been charged and should not be charged in the future,” stated the Tribal Council.