Bills to overhaul Navajo Nation tax law stall in council session
FARMINGTON — A pair of bills proposing revisions to the Navajo Nation’s tax law were stalled during the Tribal Council’s winter session Jan. 26.
Council delegates voted to table both bills, after several said the proposals required input from small business owners.
Together, the bills propose raising the sales tax percentage cap to 10 percent and clarifying and revising tax law language to help the Navajo Tax Commission and its office administer taxes.
Delegate Jamie Henio, who is sponsoring both bills, has repeatedly said the proposals do not raise sales tax.
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“All it does is give that 6-10% buffer zone,” Henio said.
The Office of the Navajo Tax Commission administers and audits the tribe’s taxes, which are collected on products such as hotel occupancy, fuel, and tobacco products.
Some of these taxes have been in place for decades, but the Navajo Nation sales tax went into effect on April 1, 2002.
The current sales tax rate is 6%, which helps fund resources such as fire and rescue services, construction of public safety and court buildings, and college scholarships.
Larieta Tso, acting executive director of the tax commission office, reiterated that they are not looking to raise the 6% sales tax.
“All we’re doing is extending the range to 10%,” Tso said.
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Although Henio and Tso have repeatedly said that the current sales tax will remain in place, some lawmakers have expressed concern about the sales tax increase.
Mel Rodis, assistant attorney general in the tax and finance unit of the Navajo Nation Department of Justice, reminded delegates that the process for increasing sales tax is outlined in tribal law and includes the approval of the tax commission, the council and the tribal chairman.
Delegates Nathaniel Brown and Rick Nez were among those who asked if the tax commission and its office had spoken to small business owners about the proposals.
“I think with the nation, we’re trying to get businesses to come to the Navajo Nation,” Brown said. “Still, I don’t see – with this legislation – helping Navajo-owned businesses.”
The council’s decision on both bills is pending at this time.
Delegates will review the bills after a working session with the Navajo Tax Commission, Dineh Chamber of Commerce, tribal leaders and small business owners.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for the Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at [email protected]
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