|The Firm handles tribal taxation issues at federal, state and tribal levels. Frye and co-counsel Wayne Bladh of the Nordhaus Law Firm, on behalf of the Navajo Nation, its wholly owned oil company, and the Pueblo of Laguna, filed an amicus brief in the case of Oklahoma Tax Comm'n v. Chickasaw Nation, 515 U.S. 450 (1995). The brief supported the position that the State of Oklahoma could not impose its gasoline excise tax directly on the Chickasaw Nation's tribally owned gas station. The Supreme Court adopted the position and reasoning advanced in that brief and issued a unanimous opinion on that point, which served as the impetus for the Navajo Nation to develop and implement its own fuel excise tax program.
Members of the Firm have rebuffed challenges to tribal taxation in two difficult and contentious cases involving off-reservation business activities. Ultimately, the federal courts required businesses to exhaust tribal administrative and judicial remedies, whereupon the cases were settled advantageously to the tribal Nation. See Pittsburg & Midway Coal Mining Co. v. Yazzie, 909 F.2d 1387 (10th Cir.) (holding that Executive Order reservation was diminished pursuant to 1908 Act of Congress and remanding for a determination if the P&M South Mine is otherwise in Navajo Indian country for tax purposes), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 1012 (1990); opinion after remand, Pittsburg & Midway Coal Mining Co. v. Watchman, 52 F.3d 1531 (10th Cir. 1995) (holding that P&M was required to exhaust Navajo administrative and court remedies in challenge to Navajo taxes); Texaco, Inc. v. Zah, 5 F.3d 1374 (10th Cir. 1993) (remanding for additional findings in case challenging Navajo taxes); opinion after remand, Texaco, Inc. v. Hale, 81 F.3d 934 (10th Cir. 1996) (affirming dismissal of Texaco's case pending exhaustion of tribal remedies).
The firm assists its Indian tribal clients in developing and implementing various tax codes, individually designed to reflect the unique attributes and to meet the special needs of each client. Tax revenues raised by such clients are generally used to pay for essential governmental services.
The Firm has assisted one subdivision of an Indian tribe to gain independent recognition by the Internal Revenue Service under § 7871 of the Internal Revenue Code, which has enabled that entity to obtain grant monies and other funds directly from federal and state governments. We have also successfully defended a client before the IRS to address its claim that tribal Board members should not be required to pay employment taxes.