Letters to Congress needed! H.R. 3043 Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act

To:                  NIGA Member Tribes
 
From:             Chairman Ernest L. Stevens, Jr.
                      Jason C. Giles, Executive Director
 
Re:                 Letters to Congress needed! H.R. 3043 Tribal General Welfare
                      Exclusion Act


Congress returns to action on Monday, September 8th after the 5-week summer recess. We understand that the House of Representatives may bring H.R. 3043, the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act, to a vote on the House floor. Thanks to your hard work, we are close to enactment of this bill that would implement long-needed reforms of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in Indian Country. HR 3043 would come to the House floor under the "Suspension Calendar" for September.  Under this rule, a bill requires a 2/3rds majority vote to gain passage.  Therefore, prior to placing the HR 3043 on the Suspension Calendar, Indian Country needs to be sure that 2/3rds of the House Representative will vote yes for the bill.
We ask that you send the attached draft letter to your Members of Congress, urging a "YES" vote on H.R. 3043.
BACKGROUND: TRIBAL GWE LEGISLATION
 
The IRS has sought to impose federal income taxes on a wide range of tribal government programs and services that individual Indians receive, such as education scholarships, funds to attend and participate in cultural events, housing assistance, bereavement stipends, and many others. Tribes and tribal organizations nationwide have called upon Congress to codify and broaden the General Welfare Exclusion(GWE) as it applies to Indian tribes through an amendment to the Internal Revenue Code.
 
Rep. Devin Nunes responded to tribal leader concerns by introducing H.R. 3043.  The bill now has 54 co-sponsors, including 15 members of the House Ways & Means Committee. The bill would put a stop to intrusive Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audits of tribal governments seeking impose federal income taxes on a wide range of tribal government programs and services.  Importantly, the bill would also reform the IRS and its work in Indian Country by requiring IRS field agents to be educated in federal Indian law and the government's unique treaty and trust obligations. Under the bill, IRS examinations will be suspended until the IRS is adequately trained.  The bill also requires deference to local tribal government decision-making authority and respect for tribal culture.  Finally, these bills would require the Treasury Secretary to establish a Tribal Advisory Committee (TAC) that will be charged with advising the Department on the application of federal tax laws in Indian Country as well as implementing the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act.
 
Please write your Member of Congress, urging a "YES" vote on H.R. 3043 as introduced if the bill comes to the House floor. To find the address and email of your member of Congress follow this link http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/. A model letter is attached for your convenience.  Please contact Danielle Her Many Horses at dhermanyhorses@indiangaming.org if you have any questions or comments.
 
[TRIBAL LETTERHEAD]
September 9, 2014
The Honorable ______________
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
E-mail:                  _________
 
Re:         Reform the IRS in Indian Country --  Vote YES on H.R. 3043
Dear Representative ________:
I write on behalf of the _______ [Tribe] to respectfully ask that you vote "Yes" on H.R. 3043, the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act, if the bill comes to the House floor for a vote in September. 
Federal Indian affairs policy is grounded in the history and course of dealings between the U.S. and Indian tribes. Tribes ceded or had taken hundreds of millions of acres of our homelands to help build this Nation.  In return, the U.S. made solemn promises to provide for the health, education, and general welfare of Indian people.  Sadly, federal programs and services designed to meet these promises have been unfunded or under-funded for decades. As a result, tribal governments are stepping in to meet these shortfalls by directly providing programs and services to our tribal citizens.  Instead of fostering these acts of Indian self-determination, the IRS has targeted Indian tribes for audits, seeking to impose federal income taxes on tribal government programs and services. 
Tribal leaders nationwide raised concerns with these targeted IRS intrusions of Indian self-determination.  Rep. Devin Nunes responded to tribal leader concerns by introducing H.R. 3043.  The bill now has 54 co-sponsors, including 15 members of the House Ways & Means Committee.  H.R. 3043 will implement long-needed reforms of the work of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in Indian Country and clarify that federally recognized tribal government programs and services provided to our citizens are not subject to federal income taxation.  Passage of this bill will help align federal tax laws with federal Indian law and policy, strengthen Indian self-determination, and respect the local decisions of tribal governments to improve our communities.  On September 17, 2013, the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) ruled that H.R. 3043 "would have a negligible effect on federal fiscal revenues."
For these reasons, I again urge you to vote "YES" on H.R. 3043 as introduced if and when the bill comes to the House floor for a vote.  I appreciate your consideration of this important request.
Sincerely,
___________ (Tribal Leader)
 
bcc: NIGA