Navajo Nation Council tables bills to revise tribe's tax law

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A pair of bills that propose revisions to the Navajo Nation's tax law stalled at the tribal council's winter session on Jan. 26.

Council delegates voted to table both bills, after several stated the proposals need input from small business owners.

Together, the bills propose to raise the cap on the sales tax percentage to 10% and clarify and revise language in the tax law to help the Navajo Tax Commission and its office administer taxes.

Delegate Jamie Henio, who is sponsoring both bills, repeatedly said the proposals do not raise the sales tax.

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"All it does is it gives that buffer zone from the six to 10 percent," Henio said.

The Office of the Navajo Tax Commission administers and audits the tribe's taxes, which are collected on commodities 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 like fire and rescue services, construction of public safety and judicial buildings and college scholarships.

Larieta Tso, acting executive director of the tax commission office, reiterated that they are not seeking to increase the 6% sales tax.

"All we are doing is extending the range to 10%," Tso said.

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Although Henio and Tso repeatedly said the current sales tax will stay in place, some lawmakers expressed concern about raising the sales tax.

Mel Rodis, assistant attorney general with the Navajo Nation Department of Justice's tax and finance unit, reminded delegates that the process to increase the sales tax is outlined in tribal law and includes approval by the tax commission, council and tribal president.

Delegates Nathaniel Brown and Rick Nez were among those who asked if the tax commission and its office spoke to small business owners about the proposals.

"I think with the nation, we are trying to entice companies to come onto the Navajo Nation," Brown said. "Yet, I don't see – with this legislation – helping out Navajo owned businesses."

The council's decision on both bills is on hold for now.

Delegates will consider the bills after a work session is held 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 nsmith@daily-times.com.

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