indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439   fax: 202 318 2182
Kill The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
N.D. tribes consider lawsuit over unlawful taxation
Thursday, September 11, 2003

News from the United Tribes Technical College.

BISMARCK – North Dakota tribal leaders say the State Tax Department is in for a lawsuit unless it quits the illegal collection of state income taxes from tribal members.

Meeting on September 5 at the close of the annual United Tribes Summit Conference, the United Tribes of North Dakota Board of Directors urged an end to the collection of state income taxes from enrolled Indians who live and work on reservations other than their own. Representatives from Standing Rock, Three Affiliated, Spirit Lake, Sisseton-Wahpeton and Turtle Mountain agreed to challenge the tax.

“There’s a tax inequity going on here,” said State Senator Dennis Bercier (D) Belcourt, an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. “Marriages between members of different tribes can create tremendous inequities with respect to the state applying tax law on reservations.”

Until recently tribes have been largely unsuccessful in their argument that because of their sovereign status, state income taxes do not apply to any Indian on a reservation regardless of where enrolled. Despite a State Supreme Court ruling to the contrary, the present tax commissioner and several of his predecessors going back to 1992, have narrowly interpreted the law to exempt only enrolled members on their home reservations.

But a recent decision by the Montana State Tax Appeals Board was decided in favor of an enrolled Cherokee tribal member from Oklahoma living and working on the Fort Peck reservation. Armed with a news account about the Montana case, North Dakota tribal leaders felt it was time to move a case forward in North Dakota.

Tribes have addressed the issue before without satisfaction, said Tex Hall, Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman and head of the National Congress of American Indians. “We have all kinds of tribal people residing on each other’s reservations,” said Hall. “I believe the state tax department will do nothing more to resolve our concerns and will continue to apply the tax.”

The issue is not strictly about income taxes, according to Tom Disselhorst, an attorney for United Tribes. “It’s an incursion on tribal jurisdiction and sovereignty. As a matter of Federal law, state law does not apply on reservations. They are separate sovereigns.”

Disselhorst says he believes that the tribe’s position is easily misunderstood. There’s very little awareness in the mainstream about the concessions tribes made.

“Tribes gave up millions of acres of land under duress. When the Congress passed the Enabling Act creating North Dakota as a state in 1889, the Federal government recognized that tribes didn’t get full value and said that Indians on the reservation will not be taxed – that they’re not subject to state law. Now, 114 years later, many people don’t think of what tribes gave up. They perceive that there’s some kind of unfair advantage. The tribes simply bought and paid for the right to be free of state taxes years ago.”

North Dakota Tax Commissioner Rick Clayburgh says he would rather talk things over than go to court. In a panel discussion during the tribal summit, Clayburgh allowed that taxation of tribal members “is not an easy issue to deal with.” He said he was not trying to be stubborn about the tax. The only time the department is aggressive is when cases come to the department’s knowledge, he said, making the enforcement “whistle blower” in nature.

Clayburgh said that he had no legal ability to waive the tax but his department can waive penalties and interest. “We have a responsibility to administer the tax code as written,” he said. “Everyone pays state tax, unless there’s an exemption. When it comes to areas that need clarification, I think the best course is to talk things out.”

According to Bercier, a tax amnesty law passed by the legislature, and soon to be implemented by the tax department, will provide some degree of help for those affected. He estimated that those Indians paying the illegal tax are probably few in number. He said he thought the dollar amount would be in the neighborhood of $250,000 and that most of that would be penalties and interest.

Bercier said he would support legislation if necessary to end the illegal taxation of income from tribal members, although he contended that the tax commissioner could administratively interpret the law to make the change.

The tax question occurs with marriages between people of different tribes and their mobility in seeking employment. Bureau of Indian Affairs employees appear to be the most vulnerable because states have been successful in making the federal government deduct payroll taxes. Tribal members do pay Federal income taxes regardless of where they live and also pay state income taxes when working and living off reservations.

Copyright © 2000-2003 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Tim Giago: Lakota and Pueblo Indians on Pine Ridge Reservation (7/28)
Native Sun News: President of Oglala Sioux Tribe dodges bullets (7/28)
Puyallup fashion designer competes for prize in Project Runway (7/28)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee sets business meeting on bills (7/28)
NIEA heads to Capitol Hill to advocate for Native language bills (7/28)
Obama signs Pascua Yaqui and Hoonah Indian Association bills (7/28)
Ho-Chunk Inc executive Lance Morgan receives business honor (7/28)
Charles Roessel: BIE reform plan includes teacher certification (7/28)
Troy Eid: Marijuana experiment in Colorado hurts Indian youth (7/28)
BIA hosts scoping meeting on Paiute Tribe land-into-trust bid (7/28)
Cherokee Nation program keeps former inmates out of prison (7/28)
Grand Ronde Tribes disenroll 86 descendants of treaty signer (7/28)
Protest targets disenrollments within Saginaw Chippewa Tribe (7/28)
At least 10 tribes adopt laws to recognize same-sex mariages (7/28)
KUOW: Coeur d'Alene Tribe cleans meth houses with EPA funds (7/28)
Law Article: Supreme Court sends reminder on tribal immunity (7/28)
Unsettled: Passamaquoddy Tribe awaits constitutional reform (7/28)
KGOU: Indian Times review of news affecting Oklahoma tribes (7/28)
Judge hears dispute over United Keetoowah Band gaming site (7/28)
Chumash Tribe plans hotel tower with $160M casino expansion (7/28)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe changes architects for casino plan (7/28)
Soo Tribe casino partner was developer behind failed racetrack (7/28)
Editorial: State must negotiate compact with Pojoaque Pueblo (7/28)
Native Sun News: IHS hospital at Pine Ridge undergoes review (7/25)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Group disturbs tranquility at Bear Butte (7/25)
Indian Health Service discloses privacy breach of patient data (7/25)
BIA extends comment period on federal recognition regulation (7/25)
Navajo Nation president calling for FBI probe of brutal murders (7/25)
Jennie Stockle: Justice for victims of Cedarville mass shooting (7/25)
John Christian Hopkins: Waiting for Belgian waffles at Denny's (7/25)
Steven Pevar: Indian chldren are being taken from their homes (7/25)
IHS pays $53M to settle another contract support cost dispute (7/25)
Shinnecock Nation asserts control over tobacco amid pressure (7/25)
Four sentenced for stealing HHS funds from Oglala Sioux Tribe (7/25)
Unsettled: BIA questions Passamaquoddy forest management (7/25)
ASU News: First graduates of Indian studies master's program (7/25)
Blog: Tanka Fund aims to grow Indian Country's bison economy (7/25)
Opinion: A troubling relationship with Native peoples in Canada (7/25)
Opinion: Auction of tribal property in France sets bad precedent (7/25)
Puyallup Tribe cancels upcoming Ted Nugent concerts at casino (7/25)
Mayor gives conflicting view on Tohono O'odham Nation casino (7/25)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe plans to start work at gaming site (7/25)
Pojoaque Pueblo defends provisions in proposed gaming deal (7/25)
Iipay Nation puts Internet gaming servers on Mohawk reserve (7/25)
Native Sun News: Cobell beneficiaries still waiting on payment (7/24)
Navajo Nation president to discuss brutal murders with mayor (7/24)
NCAI President Cladoosby offers cedar hat to BIA's Washburn (7/24)
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.