[ Breyer ]
[ OConnor ]
The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U.S. 321, 337.
CHICKASAW NATION v. UNITED STATES
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT
The Indian Regulatory Gaming Act (Gaming Act) provides, as relevant here, that Internal Revenue Code (Code) provisions (including [§§]1441, 3402(q), 6041, and 6050I, and chapter 35 ) concerning the reporting and withholding of taxes with respect to gambling operations shall apply to Indian tribes in the same way as they apply to States. 25 U.S.C. § 2719(d)(i). Chapter 35 imposes taxes from which it exempts certain state-controlled gambling activities, but says nothing about tax reporting or withholding. Petitioners, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, claim that the Gaming Act subsections explicit parenthetical reference exempts them from paying those chapter 35 taxes from which the States are exempt. Rejecting that claim, the Tenth Circuit held that the subsection applies only to Code provisions concerning tax withholding and reporting.
Held: Section 2719(d)(i) does not exempt tribes from paying the gambling-related taxes that chapter 35 imposes. Pp. 311.
(a) The subsections language outside the parenthetical says that the subsection applies to Code provisions concerning reporting and withholding, and the other four parenthetical references arguably concern reporting and withholding. The Tribes nonetheless claim that the subsections explicit parenthetical reference to chapter 35 expands the Gaming Acts scope beyond reporting and withholding provisionsto the tax-imposing provisions that chapter 35 containsand at the very least gives the subsection an ambiguity that can be resolved by applying the canon that statutes are to be construed liberally in favor of Indians with ambiguous provisions interpreted to their benefit. Rejecting their argument reduces the chapter 35 phrase to surplusage, but there is no other reasonable reading of the statute. Pp. 34.
(b) The statutes language is too strong to give the chapter 35 reference independent operative effect. The unambiguous language outside the parenthetical says without qualification that the subsection applies to provisions concerning the reporting and withholding of taxes; and the language inside the parenthetical, prefaced with the word including, literally says the same, since to include means to contain. The use of parentheses emphasizes the fact that that which is within is meant simply to be illustrative. To give the chapter 35 reference independent operative effect would require seriously rewriting the rest of the statute. One would have to read including to mean what it does not mean, namely, including and. To read the language outside the parenthetical as if it referred to (1) Code provisions concerning tax reporting and withholding and (2) those concerning wagering operations would be far too convoluted to believe Congress intended it. There is no reason to think Congress intended to sweep within the subsections scope every Code provision concerning wagering. The subject matter at issuetax exemptionalso counsels against accepting the Tribes interpretation. This Court can find no comparable instance in which Congress legislated an exemption through a parenthetical numerical cross-reference. Since the more plausible role for the parenthetical to play in this subsection is that of providing an illustrative list of examples, common sense suggests that chapter 35 is simply a bad example that Congress included inadvertently, a drafting mistake. Pp. 46.
(c) The Gaming Acts legislative history on balance supports this Courts conclusion. And the canons of interpretation to which the Tribes pointthat every clause and word of a statute should be given effect and that statutes are to be construed liberally in favor of the Indians with ambiguous provisions interpreted to their benefitdo not determine how to read this statute. First, the canons are guides that need not be conclusive. Circuit City Stores, Inc. v. Adams, 532 U.S. 105, 115. To accept these canons as conclusive here would produce an interpretation that the Court firmly believes would conflict with congressional intent. Second, specific canons are often countered by some maxim pointing in a different direction. Ibid. The canon requiring a court to give effect to each word if possible is sometimes offset by the canon permitting a court to reject words as mere surplusage if inadvertently inserted or if repugnant to the rest of the statute. Moreover, the pro-Indian canon is offset by the canon warning against interpreting federal statutes as providing tax exemptions unless the exemptions are clearly expressed. Given the individualized nature of this Courts previous cases, one cannot say that the pro-Indian canon is inevitably stronger, particularly where the interpretation of a congressional statute rather than an Indian treaty is at issue. Pp. 611.
208 F.3d 871 (first judgment); 210 F.3d 389 (second judgment), affirmed.
Breyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Stevens, Kennedy, and Ginsburg, JJ., joined, and in all but Part IIB of which Scalia and Thomas, JJ., joined. OConnor, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Souter, J., joined.
1. Together with Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma v. United States (see this Courts Rule 12.4), also on certiorari to the same court.