Our Practice

Tax Law

We advise, represent, and assist tribes on a wide range of tribal, federal, and state tax issues.

We assist tribes in developing and enforcing tribal tax laws in the exercise of their sovereignty.  Many tribes have determined that their sovereign interests in this area are best advanced through intergovernmental tax agreements – and we have assisted many tribes in negotiating and implementing such tax agreements.  We also defend challenges to tribal taxing authority and provide legal representation regarding collection of tribal taxes.

Tribes and their properly structured business enterprises are not subject to federal income tax and qualify for certain other benefits under federal tax laws, providing significant planning opportunities.  Tribes have federal tax reporting and withholding obligations concerning employees, vendors, and customers, particularly for gaming operations. Also, the manner in which tribal programs and payments to members are structured affects whether those benefits are taxed and at which rate. We work with tribes to plan and execute transactions in all these areas in the best interest of the tribe and its members.

Tribes and their members have broad immunities from state taxes for transactions and business done on reservations, but face controversies regarding state authority to collect taxes on non-members within Indian country.  We represent tribes in litigation (and negotiation) to prevent the unlawful imposition of state taxes. We also assist with tribal planning to maximize the business and economic opportunities provided by tribal immunities from state tax.

In addition, we work with tribes to help them make known to non-Indian partners the tax advantages of doing business with a tribe and to structure transactions for the greatest benefit of the tribe and its partner. We do not represent non-Indian entities doing business with tribes.

Finally, a part of our legislative practice is to protect Indian tax privileges and immunities, including advocating for tribal interests in connection with legislation such as the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act of 2014.