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Kildee, 37 Members of Congress Urge Republicans to Support Indian Country in Tax Plan

December 13, 2017
Press Release

Current Versions of Tax Bill Fail to Support Tribal Communities, Offer Parity in the Federal Tax Code for Tribal Governments

Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05), along with 37 other Members of Congress, sent a letter today to U.S. Representatives and Senators serving on the conference committee concerning the Republican tax bill. In their letter, Kildee and other members seek changes to the final bill, since the current version being rushed through Congress negatively and unfairly affects Indian Country.

“We write to you today with disappointment in the failure of Republicans to include tribal governments in either the House or the Senate versions of their tax bill. As the conference process proceeds, we urge you to consider the needs of Indian Country in the final bill. The federal tax code does not recognize the unique sovereignty of tribal governments and as a result, tribes do not enjoy the same benefits as state and local governments under the tax code,” the lawmakers wrote.

“The Senate had several opportunities, both in committee markups and through proposed floor amendments, to fix the issue of tribal taxation in the tax bill. Yet it inexplicably failed to do so. And now tribes are told that yet again, they must wait for some future work on tax reform. This is completely unacceptable,” the lawmakers continued.

“Republicans are leaving behind Indian Country,” said Congressman Kildee. “Under our Constitution, tribal governments are recognized as sovereign nations. They have an inherent right to govern themselves. Yet the Republican tax bill fails to include tribal governments. Under their tax scam, the unique tribal sovereignty is not recognized. As a result, tribes will be treated unfairly under the tax code.”

A copy of the letter and full list of Members who signed is below:

Dear Chairman Hatch, Ranking Member Wyden, Chairman Brady and Ranking Member Neal:

We write to you today with disappointment in the failure of Republicans to include tribal governments in either the House or the Senate versions of their tax bill. As the conference process proceeds, we urge you to consider the needs of Indian Country in the final bill.

The federal tax code does not recognize the unique sovereignty of tribal governments and as a result, tribes do not enjoy the same benefits as state and local governments under the tax code. To correct this mistreatment of tribal governments in the tax code, Indian Country spent almost two years educating the House and the Senate on the need for their equitable tax treatment.

The Senate had several opportunities, both in committee markups and through proposed floor amendments, to fix the issue of tribal taxation in the tax bill. Yet it inexplicably failed to do so. And now tribes are told that yet again, they must wait for some future work on tax reform. This is completely unacceptable.

Indian Country has some of the poorest communities in our country. Tribal communities have long endured high levels of poverty and substandard housing, reduced employment opportunities and economic development, and tremendous infrastructure demands. Not addressing these issues in the tax code is wrong and unjust.

We urge the Conference Committee include in its final bill the following provisions:

  1. Parity for Tax-Exempt Bonds: As sovereign nations, tribal governments should possess the authority to use tax-exempt bonds the same as state and local governments. Right now, tribal governments are limited to using tax-exempt bond financing for “essential government functions.” But by preventing a tribe from utilizing tax-exempt bonds for economic development activities will only prevent much needed tribal infrastructure development and economic growth.

 

  1. Parity for Indian Adoption Tax Credit: Under current tax law, tax credits for families that adopt special needs children are only available for adoptions in state courts, not in tribal courts. Tax credits should be available to families that adopt special needs children, regardless of the adoption venue.

 

  1. Parity for Excise Tax Exemptions: Again, as sovereign nations, tribal governments should receive the same treatment as state and local governments for the various excise tax exemptions that exist in the tax code.

 

  1. Increase Deployment of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits in Indian Country: The reconciled bill should treat tribes as states for these credit allocations. It should also create a tribal set-aside and allow Indian areas to be eligible for enhanced credits as significant levels of substandard housing exist throughout Indian Country.

 

The undersigned Members request the conferees reconsider the failure to address the unique needs of Indian Country. It is vital that a tax bill that provides additional wealth to those that already have the most should also ensure that tribal governments can benefit from the supposed economic benefits that will result from its passage.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Dan Kildee

Pete Aguilar

Nanette Diaz Barragán

Anthony G. Brown

Tony Cárdenas

Joaquin Castro

Charlie Crist

Debbie Dingell

Keith Ellison

Eliot L. Engel

Tulsi Gabbard

Ruben Gallego

Raúl Grijalva

Denny Heck

Jared Huffman

Pramila Jayapal

Derek Kilmer

Ro Khanna

Ruben J. Kihuen

Ted Lieu

Sander Levin

Alan Lowenthal

Ben Ray Luján

Michelle Lujan Grisham

Betty McCollum

Gwen Moore

Grace Napolitano

Frank Pallone Jr.

Chellie Pingree

Stacey Plaskett

Jacky Rosen

Raul Ruiz M.D.

Kurt Schrader

Mike Thompson

Dina Titus

Norma Torres
Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Juan Vargas

 

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