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    Reservation sales tax discussion No. 1 priority for Tribal Relations committee during interim

    State and Tribal officials plan to continue working together this year on potential changes to Wyoming’s sales tax collection and distribution process on the Wind River Reservation.

    The topic was listed as the No. 1 priority for the Wyoming Legislature’s Select Committee on Tribal Relations to study before the 2024 legislative session.

    “We’re in a good spot to discuss what other states are doing and some possibilities for actual legislation,” Wyoming Rep. Ember Oakley, R-Riverton, said as she presented the committee’s proposed priority list to the legislative Management Council last month. “We would really be looking at a discrete, legislative possible fix that could help some Wyomingites out.”

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    Oakley is co-chair of the Tribal Relations committee, which heard about some of those potential legislative changes during its interim topics meeting earlier in March.

    For example, Bret Fanning, administrator of the excise tax division for the Wyoming Department of Revenue, said South Dakota makes “compacts” with Tribal governments, who collect sales taxes on their reservations and send the revenue to the state, which then returns a portion of the money back to the Tribe.

    “The Department of Revenue is willing and able and would help facilitate if this is the direction that the State of Wyoming wants to go,” Fanning said, noting that the system would result in new tax revenues for Wyoming and the Tribes.

    The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes don’t currently receive any sales tax distributions from the state, but enrolled Tribal members are only exempted from sales tax collections for purchases made on the reservation.

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    For online purchases, enrolled Tribal members have to fill out a form and submit it to the seller in order to receive their sales tax exemption a process that can be “difficult for folks,” Fanning said.

    “Those online retailers are very well-versed in accepting exemption certificats … but if you’re a Tribal member, do you know how to do that?” he asked.

    One way to address that “complex” issue is to “just exempt all purchases on the reservation” from sales tax collections, Fanning said.

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    “That’s a discussion that could be held as well,” he said. “The Department is ready and willing and able to help facilitate this in whatever direction this committee would like.”

    Travis McNiven with the Northern Arapaho Business Council said the tax issue was “of interest” to his group.

    “The desire is there to look at it,” he said during the committee meeting. “Certainly I think it’s worth the discussion.

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    The strategy that “had the most agreement” from the NABC was one that would result in sales tax distributions to the Tribes that they could then “spend on behalf of their citizens,” McNiven said, but “the idea of maybe just not collecting the tax is somethign that could (be) interesting … as well.”

    The next Tribal Relations committee meeting is scheduled to take place July 10-11.

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