indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Senator Max Baucus: Fighting for tax fairness in Indian Country

Filed Under: Opinion
More on: irs, max baucus, senate, taxation
   

As Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over taxes, health care, trade, and Social Security, I’m in a unique position to help introduce and pass legislation that directly affects families across the nation. As the senior Senator from the State of Montana, I represent eleven tribes on seven reservations and one state-recognized Indian tribe. Both hats give me the honor of working on solutions to help improve the lives of Indian families nationwide.

One of the most important honors I have is making sure the federal government upholds its obligations to our tribes. Some years ago, I began hearing disturbing stories of the Internal Revenue Service auditing tribes over funds they had given money to tribal members so they could attend powwows or funerals or pay for college tuition or books. In one instance, I heard the IRS was auditing a meals for elders program. The problem was that the IRS’ efforts were not being applied fairly, evenly or with any predictability for tribes. It boils down to something called the General Welfare Exclusion Doctrine and whether tribal members should be taxed on the funding they received from their tribe to attend funerals, pay for college or travel to pow wows.

To get to the bottom of the issue, I held a Senate Finance Committee hearing in May of 2012 and asked witnesses to testify about their experiences. The IRS reached out for written comments from tribes and held a consultation session at the White House Tribal Nations Conference in 2011 and a consultation session hosted by the National congress of American Indians in 2012.

One witness at the hearing held in May of 2012, a professor of Indian Law at the University of Oklahoma College of Law testified that tribal governments provide benefits to their members for health, education, cultural, and language education as part of their cultural existence. The professor also noted that tribes were being audited at a disproportionately high rate. He testified that “where services are provided to make up for deficiencies resulting from adverse conditions not of the tribes’ making or, indeed, to further federal policy objectives, taxing and auditing them appears to me inconsistent with the requirement of the federal trust responsibility.”

Following the hearing the IRS responded to our call and published Notice 2012-75 on December 5, 2012 outlining the parameters of the Doctrine. The IRS clarified the general welfare exclusion. For tribes it means benefits provided under tribal governmental programs will not be taxed as income. That means tribes will no longer be disproportionately targeted for auditing for providing assistance to tribal families for things like:
· Mortgage or rent assistance
· Housing rehab
· Assistance for utility bills
· Educational benefits such as transportation to and from school, tutors, supplies and tuition payments

Elders will now be able to participate in meals programs such as home-delivered meals, assistance with preparing meals, local transportation assistance and travel expenses for doctor appointments, and transportation to attend social and cultural events would qualify as well as improvements in their homes such as grab bars and ramps would qualify.

Other qualifying assistance programs include transportation fees from the reservations to medical facilities and grocery stores, transportation and lodging costs while families receive medical care away from home as well as food, clothing, shelter, and transportation when tribal members have to leave home due to exigent circumstances such as victims of abuse or when a home is destroyed by fire or natural disaster.

Finally, costs for travel expenses, food, and lodging to attend cultural events such as powwows, and ceremonies qualify as well as pay or reimburse funeral and burial expenses. Now, when tribal members receive monies for these and the foregoing items they can receive them knowing they will not have to pay taxes and the tribe will not have to issue 1099’s to satisfy an IRS requirement. What should have been the rule all along will now be the standard operating procedure.

As Chairman of the Finance Committee I would like families across Indian Country to know that they have a friend who is concerned about their welfare and general well-being. We have a long way to go but with your help in letting me know these problems exist we can move forward together and make a better life for all of us. Mitakuye Oyasin.

Max Baucus is Montana’s longest serving U.S. Senator and serves as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.


Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Activists take annual swim to Alcatraz Island (10/21)
Mark Trahant: Alaska Natives ready for conference and election (10/21)
Chelsey Luger & Gyasi Ross: From slow suicide to slow healing (10/21)
Bill John Baker: Addressing breast cancer in our communities (10/21)
ICT interview with Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn of BIA (10/21)
Navajo Nation court still mulling decision in presidential case (10/21)
Column: Billy Mills still inspires 50 years after Olympic victory (10/21)
Editorial: Winnebago Tribe's business makes a big contribution (10/21)
Suquamish Tribe shares fish from hatchery at annual giveaway (10/21)
Closure of Chukchansi Tribe's casino affects reservation water (10/21)
Eastern Shawnee Tribe considers casino on ancestral Ohio site (10/21)
Town meeting for Lac Vieux Desert Band off-reservation casino (10/21)
North Fork Rancheria won't give up off-reservation casino plan (10/21)
Tohono O'odham Nation was looking for off-reservation casino (10/21)
Poarch Creeks won't confirm or deny talks for gaming compact (10/21)
Tim Giago: Deaths of Native men in Rapid City remain unsolved (10/20)
Charles 'Chuck' Trimble: Let Crazy Horse's spirit rest in peace (10/20)
Mark Trahant: Races come down to turnout in three key states (10/20)
Native Sun News: Billy Mills wows youth at Black Hills Powwow (10/20)
Cedric Sunray: Tribes abandon traditional aspects of inclusion (10/20)
Dustina Gill: Vote for Rick Weiland to protect our sacred waters (10/20)
Ousted Project Runway contestant reaffirms Puyallup heritage (10/20)
White House Tribal Nations Conference takes place December 3 (10/20)
Bryan Brewer: Park helps Oglala Sioux Tribe protect its culture (10/20)
Robert Porter: Don't let tribal issues fall prey to partisan politics (10/20)
Gabe Galanda: Abramoff's playbook still used in Indian Country (10/20)
Jay Daniels: Let BIA make changes to rights-of-way regulation (10/20)
Mike McBride: Sovereign goodwill at a low in tribal tax dispute (10/20)
Top Navajo Nation court holds hearing in presidential dispute (10/20)
Eastern Shawnee Tribe to open resort at ancestral site in Ohio (10/20)
Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas selects Lester Randall as new leader (10/20)
Editorial: Address safety concerns about tribal hunts at night (10/20)
Chukchansi Tribe sends layoff notices to most casino workers (10/20)
Rivals raise nearly $16M to block North Fork Rancheria casino (10/20)
Judge won't let BIA proceed with compact for Pojoaque Pueblo (10/20)
Candidates discuss Menominee Nation's off-reservation casino (10/20)
Opinion: Suckers help Chumash Tribe finance casino expansion (10/20)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux Tribe buckles to pressure on park (10/17)
Mark Trahant: Native vote could tip races in Idaho and Colorado (10/17)
Crystal Willcuts: Remembering the beauty that was my mother (10/17)
Blackfeet actress Misty Upham found dead after going missing (10/17)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.