Tribal Government Request for Consultation from Accounting Standard Setters

Financial Management

NAFOA has formally requested that all accounting standard-setting bodies consult with tribal governments on projects that have tribal implications to ensure fair consideration. Unlike state and local governments, tribal governments have inherent rights, with many treaties containing promises of federally provided health care, education, and housing, to name a few. The federal Indian trust responsibility is a legal obligation under which the United States “has charged itself with moral obligations of the highest responsibility and trust” toward Indian tribes.[1] In addition, tribal governments have limited tax bases and do not have the ability to levy a property tax on trust lands. Limited taxation hinders tribal governments’ ability to adequately fund government services such as infrastructure, health care, policing, and education. To supplement federal funding, tribal governments often rely on economic development activity, which disproportionately carries greater significance amongst state and local governments.

NAFOA has a representative on the Governmental Accounting Standards Advisory Council (GASAC). NAFOA’s GASAC representative ensures that Indian Country has fair and equitable treatment and that a tribal government perspective is included in proposed accounting standards setting for activities of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). In addition to representation on the GASAC, the GASB coordinates input from tribes on various projects that could have a direct and identifiable economic impact.

While the GASB involves tribal governments and decision-makers in proposed rules, other accounting standard-setting bodies do not consult with tribal governments on projects, guidelines, or proposed rules. Accounting rule changes regarding economic activity would fall under the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). Accounting rule changes regarding the trust responsibility, such as accounting and reporting of government land valuation, would fall under the Federal Accounting Standards Board (FASAB). The Financial Accounting Foundation (FAF) oversees the work of the FASB, GASB, and other advisory councils regarding strategy, administration, and finances.

Current Status and Action: 

The unique political status and economic structure of tribal governments captures a wide range of policy decisions under the financial accounting standard setter umbrella. Consultation is required.

In July of 2016, NAFOA met with GASB Chairman David Vaudt to request that the Financial Accounting Foundation, FASB, and the FASAB respect the government-to-government relationship and consult with tribal governments on all proposed rules and accounting changes that could have an effect on tribal finance. NAFOA is also supportive of providing education sessions for the respective board policymakers on tribal government policy and accounting issues. In response to the meeting, the GASB has invited tribal government representatives to attend roundtable discussions on January 11, 2017 in San Francisco and January 12, 2017 in Los Angeles.

[1] Seminole Nation v. United States, 316 U.S. 286 (1942).