Policy Alert: Highlights from Treasury Tribal Advisory Committee 14th Periodic Meeting

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The Treasury Tribal Advisory Committee (TTAC) held its 14th Periodic Meeting on May 15, 2024. The public meeting was held at the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) in Washington, D.C. All six TTAC tribal members were in attendance, either in person or virtually:

  1. Chair: W. Ron Allen, Tribal Chair and CEO of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe
  2. Cora White Horse, Council Member, Oglala Sioux 
  3. Will Micklin, 4th Vice President of the Central Council of Tlingit Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska
  4. Rodney Butler, Chairman of Mashantucket Pequot Tribe
  5. Martin Tucker, Chief Financial Officer of Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma 
  6. Chief Allan, Chairman of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe

Also in attendance were:

  • Treasurer of the United States Marilynn Malerba, Chief of the Mohegan Tribe
  • Treasury Deputy Secretary Adewale O. “Wally” Adeyemo
  • Treasury Designated Federal Officers
    • Krishna Vallabhaneni, Tax Legislative Counsel, Office of Tax Policy
    • Fatima Abbas, Director, Office of Tribal and Native Affairs 

Additionally present were Commissioner of Tax Exempt and Government Entities Edward Killen, Internal Revenue Service (IRS); Lisa M. Gomez, Assistant Secretary, Employee Benefits Security Administrator, U.S. Department of Labor; and representatives from the IRS Office of Chief Counsel.

A copy of the meeting minutes will be made available to the public soon on the Treasury’s TTAC website.


TTAC Meeting Highlights

Remarks by Treasury Deputy Secretary Adeyemo

  • Rodney Butler addressed the issue of tribes not receiving guidance on tribally chartered corporations.
  • Will Micklin stated tribal governments have not received guidance or consultation on ERISA and called audits and enforcement to stop until guidance is issued.
  • Cora White Horse mentioned a recent Washington Post Article that detailed how the IRS cut child support for native mothers across at least 10 tribes. White Horse states tribal mothers are getting no tax support from the child support program.
    • White Horse requested that the IRS change tax guidance that dehumanizes tribal citizens.
    • She also stated the IRS must engage with tribes before they make decisions that hurt tribal governments.
  • The IRS stated the Washington Post Article was inaccurate. In a follow-up article, the Washington Post stated that “the federal tax agency in December 2022 had threatened to cut off North Dakota’s access to certain child support payments unless the state government stopped helping Native American tribes access those funds.
    • In the same article, IRS Commissioner Werfel stated that the IRS is working out an agreement with the state of North Dakota to ensure that child support payments can resume.

Remarks by Commissioner of the Tax Exempt & Government Entities

  • Chairman Allen stated that the IRS needs to consult with tribes before anything is changed.
  • Chairman Allen also mentions that the current training is insufficient and that tribes need to be part of the curriculum-building process.
    • Commissioner Killen mentioned that they can arrange a modification of the training

Treasury & IRS Updates

  • Scott Vance, Associate Chief Counsel (Income Tax Accounting), estimates GWE guidance will be released in the summer and stated they have made substantial progress since the last meeting.
    • Chairman Allen reiterates that the subcommittee would like to engage with the team on what the regulation is actually looking like
  • Stephanie Bland, Acting Associate Chief Counsel (Passthroughs and Special Industries), mentions that they are working on energy credits and the issue of tribally chartered corporations. Regarding tribally chartered corporations, they have a working group that meets regularly.
  • Laura B. Warshawsky, Deputy Associate Chief Counsel (Employee Benefits), delivered remarks and discussed the recent tribal consultation on the TTAC Subcommittee on Parity and Reform’s Project Plan and Report on Tribal Pension Issues.

Interview with TTAC Member Martin Tucker, Chief Financial Officer of the Choctaw Nation:

NAFOA interviewed TTAC member Martin Tucker (Choctaw Nation) about last week’s meeting. NAFOA asked him about his overall thoughts on the meeting, the state of guidance on tribally chartered corporations, and the future goals for TTAC.

NAFOA: “What were your thoughts on how the meeting went overall?”

Tucker: “Overall, the meeting was very good. We got some comments from the officials. The other thing of concern during the meeting, not from the Treasury’s side but from the officials we met with, is that they seem to have a narrow perspective on the role of the TTAC. We believe our role is much broader than they do. We need to be involved much earlier on in the development of guidance, not just [provide] advice [on] policy after it has gone through their formulation process.”

NAFOA: “On the issue of tribally chartered corporations, have any government officials reached out to the subcommittee or any TTAC members since you’ve been on?”

Tucker: “Not that I’m aware of. I understand that there have been conversations about the possibility of some interaction but no. No one’s reached out to me and said, ‘We’ve had a meeting, and here’s the outcome of that.’”

NAFOA: “What do you think are the main issues or focuses of the Committee?”

Tucker: “I think our focuses are very appropriate. Once we get parity, pension, general welfare, and tribally chartered corporations, it’s a matter of the IRS coming off of their stance of ‘we can tax tribes and tribally chartered corporations, we just choose not to’, and that’s the wrong stance. That’s an inappropriate stance. Again that’s a lack of education about dealing with a group as a race vs. a separate sovereign. They’re trying to find a category—an existing category—into which they can drop tribally formed corporations, whether it’s a state, municipality, or county, and we are not [those].”

NAFOA: “In terms of guidance on tribally chartered corporations, what would be your ideal final guidance?”

Tucker: “I think we should begin with something as simple and easy as a start and say that tribally chartered corporations should have a structure similar to a sub-S corporation. Let’s say a corporation makes 100 million dollars, and the tribe owns 50% of it. Then, 50% of the income is attributed to the tribe. Tribes don’t pay income tax. If the other 50% of the income is owned by an individual that’s a citizen of the United States and pays income tax then 50% of the income that’s attributed to that individual is taxable. It’s that simple. There should be a separate category written for tribally chartered corporations, and we should stop putting them in existing categories.

NAFOA: “Where do want the TTAC to be by the end of the year in terms of the progress made on the issues that are of main focus”

Martin Tucker: “I think the TTAC needs to be in a rhythm with the policymakers and the leaders in the Treasury and especially the IRS. We need to be in a rhythm with them so the senior people know the staff, and [these meetings] no longer need to be an introduction. To say we will come out with this guidance we’ve been waiting for 30 years by the end of the year might be overly optimistic, but I think once we begin having that rhythm of meetings, we have that familiarity, we understand each other, and we don’t start this getting to know each other over and over again, I’ll consider that great progress.”

Additional Resources

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