Dante Desiderio: Working together to address tribal tax issue

Dante Desiderio. Photo © Jordan Stead / Facebook

Dante Desiderio, the executive director of the the Native American Finance Officers Association, welcomes cooperative work that led to passage of the H.R.3043, the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act:
Congress was not silent. Bipartisan legislation, built upon the work of Treasury and IRS, was proposed by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), which provided concrete rules and a legislative framework to deal with this situation. These important bills underscored not only the bipartisan support to fix the problem, but also legitimized many of the issues raised by tribal governments throughout the process.

This legislation helped shaped the regulation. In turn, seeing senior IRS and Treasury leadership steer the regulatory progress, helped garner support for the legislation. In an extraordinary demonstration of bipartisan support, the general welfare exclusion was passed by a simple voice vote in the House followed by Unanimous Consent in the Senate.

Congress, in building upon the work of Treasury and IRS, took the matter of IRS training and deference to tribes seriously and applied a mandate for both. Congress instructed the IRS to stop any audits of tribes until proper training on the new law and regulation occurred. This will not only stop inaccurate audits, it will also prioritize much needed training by field agents. Tribes need to continue to focus on this issue and take full advantage of this focus on retraining field agents.

The most important takeaway from this process is the process itself. When the executive and legislative branches of the federal government take the time to consult and listen to tribes, on a government-to-government basis, problems can be identified and solutions can be found. Tribes can learn to trust in a process that, while sometimes incredibly slow and frustrating, can produce significant and substantive results.

Ten years ago, the notion of the IRS, Treasury, and Congress working in partnership with Indian Country would have been dismissed by most tribal leaders as wishful thinking. But change has occurred.

Get the Story:
Dante Desiderio: American Indians, IRS, and Congress; Unlikely partners making progress (The Hill 9/20)

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