Quil Ceda Village tax case underway in federal court

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

According to the Washington Department of Revenue, Tulalip’s Quil Ceda Village generates approximately $40 million in tax revenues each year, but none of these taxes go to Tulalip or the Village. Instead, the State and County collect 100% of the taxes, with the vast majority going to Olympia. The State and County do not share any of these tax revenues with Tulalip.

The Tulalip Tribes’ lawsuit challenging Washington State and Snohomish County’s authority to collect sales tax generated by businesses in Quil Ceda Village (QCV) has finally commenced. The bench trial, presided over by Judge Barbara Rothstein, is scheduled for 10-days and began on Monday, May 14, at the U.S. District Courthouse located in Seattle.

Moments prior to court going into session, Chairwoman Marie Zackuse stated, “The Tulalip Tribes are here today to present our case. This is about taxes generated in our own tribal municipality – built with our own resources. We are confident we have a strong case and look forward to a positive outcome.”

The U.S. federal government is Tulalip’s co-plaintiff in the legal battle against Snohomish County and Washington State. The United States claims the State and County’s imposition of taxes on commerce in Quil Ceda Village undermines tribal and federal interests, infringes on tribal self-governance, and violates the Indian Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“The United States takes seriously the federal role in protecting tribal self-government, which has its foundation in federal statutes, treaties, and regulations,” said John C. Cruden, the Assistant U.S. Attorney General at the time the lawsuit was filed.

“The State of Washington and Snohomish County did not contribute in any significant respect to the development of Quil Ceda Village,” according to the United States complaint filed in Seattle. “Moreover, they provide no significant governmental services at the Village and they play no role in the Village’s ongoing operations.” 

The State and County currently collect over $40 million in annual property, business and occupation and sales taxes on the on-reservation activities at Quil Ceda Village. Even though Tulalip has its own applicable tribal tax laws, State and County taxation, in effect, preclude Tulalip from imposing its own taxes and deprive the Tribe of the tax base needed to fund important governmental services.

During opening arguments, Tulalip’s legal team expressed that the evidence will show that Tulalip has done everything reasonable to build QCV into what it is today while working under the guidelines of the Tulalip Leasing Act and other federal statutes encouraging self-determination. Tulalip created an economic engine, only to have the tax-base they created be 100% appropriated by County and State governments. 


In 2001, the Bureau of Indian Affairs approved QCV’s status as a tribal municipality. Quil Ceda Village became the first tribal political subdivision in the nation established under the Indian Tribal Governmental Tax Status Act of 1982, and one of only two federal municipalities in the country, the other being Washington, D.C. As the first tribal city of its kind, Quil Ceda Village is an innovative model of tribal economic development.

The Tulalip Tribes, with support of the United States government, took what was once undeveloped land and engaged in master planning, invested in infrastructure, and created resources that benefit its tribal membership and the surrounding communities. 

Quil Ceda Village is widely regarded as an economic powerhouse, located entirely on federal land held in trust by the United States for the benefit of the Tulalip Tribes. The Village contains the Tulalip Resort Casino, Walmart, Home Depot, Cabela’s, the 130 designer store Seattle Premium Outlets, and provides jobs for over 5,000 employees. QCV has fulfilled the vision of past tribal leaders who sought to create a destination marketplace on the Tulalip Reservation.

Be a witness to history

Tulalip filed suit against the State and County in 2015, seeking the right to claim the tax revenue generated at QCV. Three years later, the lawsuit is finally being heard and is open to the public. Over the 10-day federal court proceedings, Tulalip Tribes, represented by the Office of Reservation Attorney and the Seattle-based law firm of Kanji & Katzen, will seek authorization to exercise its sovereignty over the economy and tax-base, while asking the Court to instruct the County and State to cease collecting sales tax on economic activities within the boundaries of QCV.

Tulalip Tribes, et al., vs. the State of Washington, et al. is ongoing at the U.S. District Courthouse located at 700 Stewart St, Seattle, WA 98101. Tribal members who wish to show their support are encouraged to do so. The case is being heard by Judge Rothstein in room 16106 from 9:00a.m. to 5:00p.m. 

“We are witnessing history in the making as the two-week hearing for our federal city, Quil Ceda Village, is underway to preempt Washington State sales taxes within our sovereign lands,” said former Board of Director Theresa Sheldon. “It’s important to acknowledge that it has taken decades of work for us to get to this point. The efforts of so many past tribal leaders and QCV employees helped carry this vision forward.”

Tulalip Tribes and Quil Ceda Village Defend Right to Tax Tribal Economic Development

Source: Tulalip Tribes Public Affairs


Tulalip, WA–June 12, 2015–The Tulalip Tribes and its political subdivision, the Consolidated Borough of Quil Ceda Village, filed suit today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington asking the Court to permanently enjoin the State of Washington and Snohomish County from imposing and enforcing sales and use, business and occupation, and personal property tax on economic activities within the boundaries of the Quil Ceda Village, to the extent of similar taxes imposed by Tulalip.

”With its own resources, the Tulalip Tribes transformed over 2,000 acres of vacant land into Quil Ceda Village, one of the premier shopping and entertainment destinations in Western Washington,” said Mel Sheldon, chairman of the Tulalip Tribes.  “Today, Quil Ceda Village has over 150 businesses, creating more than 6,000 jobs, attracting up to 60,000 visitors a day, and contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to the North Snohomish County economy.”

Information from the Washington Department of Revenue reveals that Quil Ceda Village generates approximately $40 million in tax revenues each year, but none of these taxes go to Tulalip or the Village.  Instead, the state and county collect one hundred percent of the taxes, with the vast majority going to Olympia.  “This is a grave injustice,” continued Sheldon.  “Like any government, Tulalip must generate tax revenues to fund the infrastructure and local government services it provides, which benefit not just Village businesses and patrons, but everyone in Snohomish County.”

“As a matter of federal law,” said Sheldon “Tulalip is entitled to collect its own Tribal taxes on business activities in Quil Ceda Village and Tulalip will defend its right to function as a sovereign government.”  Tulalip cannot do this as long as the state and county continue to impose and enforce their taxes because businesses and customers in the Village would be subject to dual taxation.  The United States has long recognized that tribal taxing authority is an important aspect of tribal sovereignty and self-governance.

For well over a decade the Tulalip Tribes has requested to work together with both state and county officials to reach a fair resolution on this issue, but these requests have been ignored.  “It is critical for the continued growth of the Village that we take action now,” said Chairman Sheldon.


About the Tulalip Tribes and the Consolidated Borough of Quil Ceda Village

The Tulalip Tribes is a federally-recognized Indian tribal government, and the Consolidated Borough of Quil Ceda Village is a political subdivision of the Tulalip Tribes, located entirely on federal land held in trust by the United States for the benefit of the Tulalip Tribes.  Quil Ceda Village is located on the Tulalip Indian Reservation and consists of approximately 2100 acres.  It is adjacent to the western boundary of Interstate 5 and is approximately 40 minutes north of Seattle, Washington.



IHS eligible individuals now able to claim exemption through tax filing process

Press release: Indian Health Service

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced last week that individuals eligible to receive health care from an Indian Health Service (IHS), tribal, or urban Indian health program provider are now able to claim an exemption from the shared responsibility payment through the tax filing process starting with the 2014 tax year. This benefit was previously only available to members of federally recognized tribes (including Alaska Native shareholders). American Indian and Alaska Native individuals will continue to have the option of submitting the exemption application through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Prior to this week’s announcement, only individuals who were members of a federally recognized tribe were able to claim an exemption through the federal tax filing process. Individuals who are eligible to receive services from an Indian health care provider are eligible for a separate hardship exemption but were required to obtain this exemption through the Health Insurance Marketplace by filing a paper application.

The availability of the online tax filing process to apply for the hardship exemption will save time and reduce duplication of effort. Qualification for the Indian exemption can be established by attestation of membership in a federally recognized tribe or eligibility to receive services from an Indian health care provider.

Secretary Burwell first announced this updated rule at the Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee meeting on September 18, 2014. This benefit of claiming the exemption through the tax filing process was initiated based on requests by tribal leaders. The IHS worked closely with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Internal Revenue Service to extend these options to individuals eligible to receive services from an Indian health care provider.

The IHS, an agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides a comprehensive health service delivery system for approximately 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives who are members of federally recognized tribes.

Washington State Senators Propose Tax On Oil Train Shipments

Taylor Winkel, Northwest News Network

Powerful members of the Washington state Senate are on board with a plan to tax crude oil shipped into the state by rail.

The money raised would pay for oil spill response and clean up.

The proposed legislation would expand an existing barrel tax paid only by seaborne oil tankers.

Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen says extending the tax is fair.

“Every tanker coming into our refinery today pays a 5-cents-per-barrel tax that goes into oil spill prevention and response,” Ericksen says. “We believe we should apply that to rail cars coming in and we have a bi partisan bill that would apply the barrel tax to the rail cars also.”

Oil train traffic across the Northwest has rapidly increased since 2012. Trains are carrying crude oil from wells on the northern plains to refineries in Northwest Washington and a marine terminal in Clatskanie, Ore.

At least half a dozen more crude oil receiving terminals are on the drawing boards in Western Oregon and Washington.

Navajo Nation president blocks tax on junk food

By Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation president has vetoed a proposal to impose an additional tax on chips, cookies and sweetened beverages on the country’s largest reservation, but the legislation could be resurrected later.

President Ben Shelly supports the idea of a junk food tax as a way to combat high rates of diabetes and obesity among tribal members and encourage healthy lifestyles, his adviser Deswood Tome said Wednesday. But Shelly said the legislation isn’t clear on how the tax on snacks high in fat, sugar and salt would be enforced and regulated, according to Tome.

“There are a lot of supporters out there for the tax, and again, the president wants a plan that works,” Tome said. “He’s asking the (Tribal) Council to take back this initiative and redo it so that the burden is not on the government to implement a law that is going to create hardship, especially in the collection of taxes.”

The Dine Community Advocacy Alliance and tribal lawmakers had been positioning the Navajo Nation to become the leader in Indian Country when it comes to using the tax system to press tribal members to make healthier choices.

School districts across the country have banned junk food from vending machines. Cities and states have used taxes and other financial incentives to encourage healthy choices, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but not all the efforts have been met with overwhelming support.

The legislation in the Navajo Nation Council did not have a smooth ride either.

Denisa Livingston of the Dine Community Advocacy Alliance said the group worked for two years to get tribal lawmakers to pass the legislation. Dine is the Navajo word for “the people.”

Livingston said American Indians are more likely to suffer from diabetes and other chronic health problems than the average American.

She estimated that imposing an additional 2 percent tax on junk food sold on the Navajo reservation would result in at least $1 million a year in revenue that could go toward wellness centers, community parks, walking trails and picnic grounds in tribal communities. The tax would have expired at the end of 2018.

“Every one of our Navajo families has someone who is suffering from chronic disease,” she said. “This is the initiative we wanted to take because we see our families suffering.”

About 14 percent of the people in the area of the Navajo Nation have been diagnosed with diabetes, according to the federal Indian Health Service.

American Indian and Alaska Native adults are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as non-Hispanic whites, and Native children ages 10 to 19 are nine times as likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the agency said.

Opponents of the tax in Navajo communities in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah argued it would burden consumers and drive revenue off the reservation.

Shelly also vetoed a companion bill to eliminate the tribe’s 5 percent sales tax on nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables. Tome said Shelly would like lawmakers to revise the legislation to address his concerns.

The Tribal Council can override Shelly’s vetoes with a two-thirds vote of its 24 members. Livingston said she would pursue that option with lawmakers.

Read more here: http://www.theolympian.com/2014/02/12/2981159/navajo-nation-president-blocks.html#storylink=cpy