Wind River Tax Commission approves of bill proposal to distribute reservation-generated online sales taxes to Tribes

    The Wind River Tax Commission plans to encourage the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Business Councils to pursue state legislation allowing remote sales tax revenue generated on the Wind River Reservation to be distributed back to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes, a legislative committee heard this month.

    An agreement must be in place between both Tribes before the legislation can move forward, however, WRTC Director Clarence Aragon told the Wyoming Legislature’s Select Committee on Tribal Relations during a meeting last week.

    The WRTC will schedule a special meeting with the Wind River Inter-Tribal Council soon to discuss a potential resolution supporting the legislation, Aragon said.


    “Following that, then we’ll go ahead and give you guys an answer on whether to pursue the bill or not,” he told the committee, adding, “We hope our next meeting together is finalizing, or discussing the benefits of, this bill.”

    Draft bill

    The bill draft Aragon referenced says revenues that the state collects from remote sellers for sales sourced to the reservation “shall be distributed to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes,” though the state would retain 1 percent of the funding to cover administrative expenses and costs.

    “The remaining amount shall be paid to each tribe as determined by a separate agreement between each tribe and the state of Wyoming,” the bill states. “If an agreement is not in effect with a tribe, any unpaid amount shall be retained (in) the account from which the funds would be paid.”

    Aragon said the legislation represents “a small step in creating a great working relationships with the State of Wyoming and the Department of Revenue.”


    “We are hopeful this agreement can be a foundation of further success in taxation on the reservation,” he said.

    ‘A historic turn’

    Wyoming Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, called the potential for online sales tax revenues to be distributed to the Tribes  “a historic turn” that “could be really good for the people on the Wind River Indian Reservation and their governments that have been starved for funding.”

    “I’m kind of excited about this approach,” Case said. “I think this is a healthy way to go.”


    Wyoming Rep. Ember Oakley, R-Riverton, said she would “tend to agree” with Case, but she also noted that it will be important to defer “to what the residents on the reservation want” moving forward.

    Currently, Wyoming has a sales tax exemption in place for purchases made on the Wind River Reservation by enrolled members of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes.

    For online purchases delivered to the reservation, however, local Tribal members have to fill out a form in order to access their sales tax exemption – a process that can be cumbersome and that likely results in erroneously collected taxes.


    Under the legislation being proposed, Wyoming Rep. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, said Tribal members would no longer face the “burden” of filing that exemption – instead, the sales taxes collected as part of their online purchases would be distributed back to the Tribes.

    “This is an agreement where the Tribes recognize that there will be a tax implication for some of their members,” Ellis said.

    Case agreed that “the only way this is going to work is if we all impose the tax” and provide “the revenue streams to Tribal governments” so they can “decide the full distribution of that tax between them.”

    “It would provide them a significant revenue stream that they would be able to use for Tribal governmental purposes,” he said.

    Wyoming does not currently distribute any sales tax income to Tribal governments.


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