Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Tax disparities remain in Indian Country

The Tribal Leaders Tax Summit convened on November 14 to discuss implementation of H.R.3043, the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act. Photo from Miccosukee Tribe of Florida.

Dina Gilio-Whitaker of the Center for World Indigenous Studies says enactment of H.R.3043, the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act, won't solve taxation problems facing Indian Country:
The challenges posed by over-taxation are complex and many, if not obvious. The strategy originally proposed by tribes to address these threats to tribal sovereignty involved advocating for a system of tax compacting—negotiated agreements with the federal government on taxation policy, similar to the self-governance compacts that 40% of today’s tribal governments have. This approach would be more complex and likely take longer, but would also more comprehensively support the political autonomy of tribal governments by advancing an intergovernmental process. The result would in the long run increase political equality between tribal and federal governments.

The idea of petitioning Congress to sponsor a tribal General Welfare Exclusion act was proposed as an alternative to that process. It was a kind of shortcut that led to relatively quick results in order to get the IRS off the tribes’ backs—a political win/win for everyone, with little to no risk for anyone. It might have produced a positive short-term result, but what does Indian country gain in the long run by running to Congress to fix problems we can negotiate for ourselves? Doesn’t such an approach just reinforce Congress’s supposed plenary power over Indian affairs?

The IRS might be fended off for now, but the bigger problems still remain. The TGWEA does virtually nothing to change the taxation disparities in Indian country, which will in turn continue to perpetuate conditions of poverty for all but a handful of tribal communities.

Get the Story:
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act: Landmark Legislation or Hollow Victory? (Indian Country Today 11/21)

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