Business | Law

Washington counties owe millions for illegal tax on reservations

Counties in Washington owe millions of dollars for property taxes that were illegally imposed in Indian Country.

In July 2013, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that state and local governments can't tax property on Indian land even if that property was developed by non-Indians or leased to non-Indians. The decision came after the Bureau of Indian Affairs finalized a regulation that clarified that such taxes are illegal.

“(It’s) a great victory for Indian Country for the federal government to finally recognize its obligations under the treaties they established with Indian nations giving us the right to exist as sovereign nations,” Les Parks, the vice chairman of the board of directors for the Tulalip Tribes, told The Everett Herald.

Shonomish County, where the reservation is located, has already started sending $5 million in refunds to businesses like Wal-Mart and Home Depot. Both companies lease land owned by the tribe.

Overall, the county stands to lose nearly $106 million this year as a result of the decision, the paper reported.

Get the Story:
County refunding $5 million in taxes to building owners on tribal land (The Everett Herald 7/6)

9th Circuit Decision:
Chehalis Tribe v. Thurston County (July 30, 2013)

Federal Register Notice:
Residential, Business, and Wind and Solar Resource Leases on Indian Land (December 5, 2012)

Related Stories:
9th Circuit sides with Chehalis Tribe in county taxation dispute (07/30)

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