The Treasury Department is committed to implementing a comprehensive consultation process leading to meaningful dialogue with Indian Tribes on a government-to-government basis. By facilitating an ongoing dialogue, this process allows us to better understand and respond to the needs of tribal governments regarding Treasury regulations, legislative comments, proposed legislation and policy statements that have Tribal implications, have a direct and identifiable economic impact on Indian Tribes, or preempt Tribal law.
The Treasury Department's Office of Economic Policy is responsible for coordinating consultation between the Indian Tribes and Treasury Department bureaus and offices. Treasury’s official point of contact for tribal consultation is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Coordination. Currently, this position is held by Dr. Elaine Buckberg. Please use the email address below to contact us with any questions, concerns or comments you may have.
We encourage you to check this page frequently to stay informed of our progress, and explore opportunities to share your concerns with the Department.
Office for Economic Policy
U.S. Treasury Department
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220
Treasury Department Progress Reports on our Tribal Consultation Process and Activities
On December 4, 2015, Treasury and IRS issued new guidance that allows Indian tribal governments greater flexibility to use bond volume cap allocations for Tribal Economic Development Bonds in circumstances involving "draw-down" loans in which bonds are issued in phases over time, rather than drawn down all at once. This more flexible approach will give Indian tribal governments up to three years to use these bond volume cap allocations if they issue at least 10% of the total bond amount within the first six months and 50% of the total bond amount within two years.
See Notice 2015-83, available at this link, which amends Notice 2012-48, 2012-31 I.R.B. 102 (July 30, 2012) for full details.
On December 1, 2015, Treasury hosted a phone consultation regarding the applicability of the Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions of the Affordable Care Act to tribal employers. The call was arranged in response to requests from a number of tribal leaders and organizations and received 235 callers. Tribal leaders and tribal government specialists engaged in constructive dialogue with Deputy Assistant Secretary Elaine Buckberg, and other representatives of the Treasury Department and IRS. Tribal governments and the specialists who are working with them to implement these provisions of the ACA are encouraged to visit the IRS web site on ACA Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions. Follow-up questions may be addressed to a tribe's IRS Indian Tribal Government Specialist (details are posted at this link).
On September 23, 2015, Treasury issued a final Tribal Consultation Policy, released in the Federal Register, outlining the guiding principles for all Treasury bureaus and offices engaging with Tribal Governments on matters with tribal implications. The final policy supersedes the interim tribal consultation released on December 3, 2015. While the policy was being reviewed and finalized, Treasury has operated under the interim consultation policy.
In releasing the interim policy, Treasury solicited comments from Indian tribal governments and tribal organizations. The written comments and other feedback received via ongoing tribal consultation were very helpful in developing Treasury’s final tribal consultation policy. The final policy incorporates several changes, which are discussed in the preamble to the Federal Register notice publishing the final policy. The policy is available here.
On September 18th, 2015, the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service issued final guidance regarding per capita distributions made to members of Indian tribes from funds held in trust by the Secretary of the Interior. Developed in response to requests from tribal nations, the guidance concludes that per capita payments to tribal members from such trust accounts generally are not subject to taxation. The notice is available at this link
Treasury is now soliciting nominations and applications, particularly from tribal leaders, for the three Committee members who will be appointed by the Treasury Secretary. The deadline is April 28, 2015. For additional information please see the Federal Register notice. The Chairs and Ranking Members of the Senate Finance Committee and House of Representative Ways and Means Committee will each appoint one member.
The Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act of 2014 (H.R. 3043), signed into law by President Obama last September, requires the Treasury Department to established a Tribal Advisory Committee (TTAC). Committee members will advise the Secretary on matters related to the taxation of Indians, the training of Internal Revenue Service field agents, and the provision of training and technical assistance to Native American financial officers. The Committee charter
has been filed. We expect Committee members will establish initial bylaws after all TTAC members have been appointed.
- On December 4, 2014, Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Koskinen met with tribal leaders to listen to their comments, suggestions and concerns relating to federal taxation and government-to-government relations with the IRS. Tribal presidents, chairmen and other official representatives discussed an array of tribal tax issues with the Commissioner. Much of the focus was on the recently enacted Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act, which codified a recent IRS revenue procedure on the subject and established a Tribal Advisory Committee at the Secretary of the Treasury’s level to advise the Department on tribal tax issues. Both the Commissioner and the tribal leaders agreed that the IRS must continue to honor and build on its recent success in meeting its federal trust responsibility towards Indian tribes. They also agreed that Treasury’s recent release of its interim Tribal Consultation Policy, which will apply to all Bureaus of the Treasury including IRS, will provide a solid foundation to ensure IRS engagement with tribes on a government-to-government basis and respect for tribal sovereignty.
On December 3, 2014, the Treasury issued an interim Tribal Consultation Policy, for consultation and comment. This notice was released in the Federal Register. Treasury is seeking comments from tribes on the interim policy by April 2, 2015 and will then consider those comments in revising and finalizing a policy. While the policy is being reviewed and finalized, Treasury will operate under the interim consultation policy. The policy is available for review at this link.
On December 2, 2014, the Treasury Department held a government-to-government consultation on the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act of 2014 (“Act”). In response to requests from a number of tribal leaders and organizations, this session was held in conjunction with the White House Tribal Nations Conference; over twenty five tribes were represented at the meeting by their leaders or other officials. Tribal leaders engaged in constructive dialogue with Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, Assistant Secretary Mark Mazur, Deputy Assistant Secretary Elaine Buckberg, and other representatives of the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service regarding the process for appointing a Tribal Advisory Committee, pursuant to the Act. Treasury also announced the release of its interim Tribal Consultation Policy at the meeting, requesting that tribal leaders send comments on the interim policy to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 2, 2015.
On October 28, 2014, Dr. Elaine Buckberg, Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Coordination and Point of Contact for Tribal Consultation, served as a panelist and delivered remarks in a session on Tribal Tax Parity: Next Steps After a New Federal Law
, as part of the National Congress of American Indians’ 2014 Annual Convention and Marketplace in Atlanta, Georgia. The panel discussed the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act of 2014, which became law in the previous month. In addition, panelists addressed tribal tax issues that Congress will consider during their remaining term and tax reform opportunities anticipated for the next Congress.
On September 22, 2014, Deputy Assistant Secretary Elaine Buckberg, Treasury Point of Contact for Tribal Consultation, delivered a speech at the Native American Finance Officers Association's Fall Finance & Tribal Economies Conference. During her remarks, which focused on government policies impacting tribal governments, Deputy Assistant Secretary Buckberg outlined a recent announcement that will streamline the process of applying for exemptions to the Affordable Care Act health coverage requirement. She explained that, beginning with returns filed in 2015, individuals who are eligible for services through an Indian health care provider may obtain a hardship exemption from the shared responsibility payment through the tax filing process.
This approach may be particularly helpful to families where some individuals are members of federally-recognized tribes, and others are not but are still eligible for services at Indian health services facilities. This approach will allow all family members to have the option to use the same tax filing process. Details of how to claim the exemptions are in the draft tax filing instructions released by the IRS on September 19, 2014.
On August 12, 2014, Treasury submitted a progress report
on its tribal consultation policy to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This report was issued in response to President Obama's Memorandum on Tribal Consultation, which required each agency head to submit a progress report on tribal consultation issues.
- On July 30, 2014, in response to an invitation from the Indian Health Service Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee (TSGAC), Deputy Assistant Secretary Elaine Buckberg, Treasury Point of Contact for Tribal Consultation; Kimberly Koch from the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel; and Jonathan Damm, Tax Law Specialist at the IRS Office of Indian Tribal Governments, attended the TSGAC’s 2014 Quarterly Meeting. They discussed the Committee’s request that individuals eligible for a hardship exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s individual responsibility provision based on their eligibility to receive services from the Indian Health Service, be allowed to claim that exemption through the tax filing process. Allowing this exemption to be claimed on a tax return would be consistent with the current process for certain other exemptions, such as the tribal member exemption. Dr. Buckberg said that the Treasury Department and the IRS are actively working to determine whether the streamlined exemption process can be made available for both hardship exemptions. A brief conversation about the importance of this issue followed her remarks.
- On July 23, 2014, Deputy Assistant Secretary Elaine Buckberg, Treasury Point of Contact for Tribal Consultation, held a listening session with tribal leaders in the main Treasury Department building in Washington, D.C. This session was part of an ongoing dialogue to help the federal government better understand and address the needs of tribes in Indian Country. The event brought together 30 tribal leaders and officials who provided feedback on Treasury policies and economic development initiatives. Topics included the General Welfare Doctrine, per-capita distributions made to tribal members from tribal trust accounts, New Markets Tax Credits, and the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund’s study on Native American communities’ access to credit and capital.
- Read the Treasury Department Fact Sheet on Tribal Economic Development Bonds
- On June 3, 2014, Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released final tax guidance on the General Welfare Doctrine specifying that a wide range of benefits and services provided by Indian tribal governments qualify for the general welfare exclusion from income. These include programs for housing, education, cultural and religious purposes, and the elderly and disabled, among others. Treasury and the IRS created this guidance to address the unique needs and challenges of Indian tribal governments. While developing this guidance, Treasury and the IRS received over 120 written comments, convened listening sessions, and participated in other formal and informal consultations to facilitate government-to-government dialogues between the U.S. federal and Indian tribal governments and understand key tribal concerns. The final guidance (Rev. Proc. 2014-35) supersedes the preliminary guidance issued on December 5, 2012 (IRS Notice 2012-75), which has been effective since that date.
- On Tuesday, March 11, Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark Mazur spoke at the National Congress of American Indians 2014 Executive Winter Session. During the session, “Federal Tax Issues Impacting Indian Country,” Assistant Secretary Mazur focused on the interim guidance regarding per capita distributions, the general welfare exclusion guidance, tax reform, and tribal economic development bonds. The remarks were followed by a brief listening session to solicit feedback from the Native American community.
- On Monday, March 10, Treasury and IRS issued a notice regarding per capita distributions made to members of Indian tribes from funds held in trust by the Secretary of the Interior. In response to feedback from tribal nations, the guidance clarifies that, generally, these per capita payments will not be subject to federal income tax. This notice was issued as interim guidance to allow Indian tribes time to review and provide feedback. Based on these comments, Treasury and IRS will consider revisions before issuing a final notice.
- On February 3, 2014, Deputy Assistant Secretary Elaine Buckberg, Treasury Point of Contact for Tribal Consultation, held a listening session during the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) Impact Week Meeting. While the session was held at the USET conference, tribal leaders nationally were invited to attend. Deputy Assistant Secretary Buckberg provided opening remarks, then took questions. In her speech, she emphasized the Administration’s commitment to addressing the unique economic issues facing Indian Country, discussed progress on revisions to the General Welfare Exclusion guidance, and forthcoming guidance on per capita distributions made to Indian tribe members from trust accounts.
- On January 27, 2014, Treasury and IRS hosted a phone consultation to discuss forthcoming guidance concerning the federal income tax treatment of per capita distributions made to Indian tribe members from funds held in trust by the Secretary of the Interior. During the call, Deputy Assistant Secretary Elaine Buckberg, Treasury Point of Contact for Tribal Consultation, and Christie Jacobs, Acting Director for Government Entities, explained that we expect the guidance to clarify that per capita payments to tribal members that are made from trust accounts will not subject to federal income tax. Over 170 individuals participated in the call.
- On January 22, 2014, Deputy Assistant Secretary Elaine Buckberg, Treasury Point of Contact for Tribal Consultation, and Kimberly Koch, from the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel, attended the 2014 Quarterly Meeting of the Indian Health Service (TSGAC) Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee. At this meeting, Deputy Assistant Secretary Buckberg delivered brief remarks regarding the process for claiming exemptions from the Affordable Care Act’s individual responsibility provision. Deputy Assistant Secretary Buckberg emphasized that Treasury and IRS understand TSGAC’s desire to streamline the exemption process for all Native Americans and their eligible family members and noted that we are already looking into the issue. Her remarks were followed by a conversation about the importance of the issue and potential solutions for the operational aspects.
On September 10, 2013, Dr. Elaine Buckberg, Treasury Point of Contact for Tribal Consultation and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Coordination in the Office of Economic Policy, gave a presentation for the Native American Finance Officers' Association (NAFOA) in Seattle, WA. The presentation was part of NAFOA’s Fall Finance & Tribal Economies Conference which brought together tribal leaders, financial professionals, and policy makers to discuss key economic issues facing the tribal community. In her speech, Deputy Assistant Secretary Buckberg emphasized Treasury’s commitment to tribal consultation, outlined the Agency’s recent initiatives, and described federal lending and bond programs that can bring capital and credit to Indian Country – to address issues ranging from tribal economic development to financing for small businesses.
- On July 23, 2013, Dr. Elaine Buckberg, Treasury Point of Contact for Tribal Consultation and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Coordination in the Office of Economic Policy, held a consultation and listening session with tribal leaders at the Treasury offices in Washington D.C. This session was a part of an ongoing dialogue to help the federal government better understand and address the needs of tribes across Indian Country. This session brought together 24 tribal leaders who provided feedback on Treasury policies and economic development initiatives including the General Welfare Doctrine, Tribal Economic Development Bonds (TEDB) and the upcoming Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) study on Native American communities' access to credit and capital.
- On July 16, 2013, the Treasury Department and IRS conducted a phone consultation with Alaska Regional Corporations (ARCs) to discuss a forthcoming draft notice applying the voluntary withholding provisions to dividends and other payments made by an ARC. Voluntary income tax withholding arrangements allow taxpayers to avoid potentially burdensome final tax payments at the end of the year. Twenty-seven tribal representatives participated in the call.
- On April 18, 2013, the Treasury Department announced that Dr. Elaine Buckberg is the new Treasury Point of Contact for Tribal Consultation. Dr. Buckberg is also the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Coordination, in the Treasury's Office of Economic Policy.
- On March 6, 2013, Alex Gelber, Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary for Microeconomic Analysis in the Office of Economic Policy, gave a presentation for the 2013 National Congress of American Indian Executive Council's Winter Session. His speech provided an overview of Treasury's recent work on behalf of Indian Country.
- On December 5, 2012, in a speech at the White House Tribal Nations Conference, Treasury Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin announced the release by Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of important new tax guidance on the General Welfare Doctrine. The IRS proposed guidance lays out broad exclusions from income of certain benefits that Indian tribal governments provide to tribal members to ensure that government benefits provided to those in need are not subject to income tax. This guidance was developed in consultation with tribal leaders who helped ensure that it addresses the needs of Indian tribal governments and their members.
- Treasury and the IRS consulted with tribal leaders and other stakeholders for more than a year on this issue.
- In Notice 2012-75, the IRS outlines a proposed set of general principles and safe harbors under which Indian tribal government benefits are covered under this exclusion.
- The new guidance became effective immediately. However, consistent with Treasury's commitment to meaningful tribal consultation, Treasury issued this new guidance in proposed form so that we can continue to work with tribal members' to improve the guidance moving forward
- On June 14, 2012, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Coordination Aaron Klein testified before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee at a hearing entitled, "New Tax Burdens on Tribal Self-Determination". Testimony of Aaron Klein.pdf
- On May 30, 2012, the Treasury Department and the IRS hosted a stakeholder conference call with tribes and tribal leaders that provided additional opportunities for input and further discussion of the issues.
- On May 14, 2012, the Treasury Department and IRS jointly conducted another consultation and listening session regarding the application of the General Welfare Exclusion to Benefits Provided under Indian Tribal Government Programs. Pursuant to Treasury's Tribal Consultation Policy and Executive Order 13175, Treasury and the IRS were actively engaged in consultation with Tribes and Tribal leaders. Treasury and the IRS began consultation on this specific topic in November 2011, and held several public, in-person sessions. Treasury and IRS requested written comments and received over 65 comments in response to Notice 2011-94. To address those concerns, the Office of Indian Tribal Governments of the IRS reviewed the administrative steps it can take to develop a national coordination process in order to ensure that general welfare programs are reviewed in a consistent fashion.
- On March 8, 2012, Treasury and IRS officials conducted a consultation and listening session with Tribal Leaders in Washington, D.C., during the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Executive Council session meetings. The conversation lasted two hours and focused on various ideas and concepts to improve the general welfare exclusion to Indian tribal government programs. During the conversation, concepts were raised by the California Association of Tribal Governments, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, United South and Easter Tribes, Inc., the Native American Finance Officers Association and the National Congress of American Indians, along with others raised by Tribal leaders, members and interested parties in attendance.
- On March 6, 2012, Deputy Assistant Secretary Aaron Klein addressed the NCAI Executive Council in an open session with approximately 100 Tribal leaders, members and interested parties in attendance. Deputy Assistant Secretary Klein focused on Treasury's ongoing Tribal consultation efforts , its recent report on TEBD and its consultation efforts with the IRS on the general welfare exclusion.
- On February 13, 2012, the IRS announced an extension to the time limit for commenting on guidance the agency issued regarding the application of the general welfare exclusion to Indian tribal government programs. Comments may now be submitted through March 14, 2012.
- In December 2011, the Treasury Department sent to Congress a Report and Recommendations regarding Tribal Economic Development Bond provision under Section 7821 of the Internal Revenue Code.
- The Treasury Department and the IRS began the consultation process regarding the application of the general welfare exclusion to benefits provided under Indian Tribal Government programs. The notice invited comments concerning the application of the general welfare exclusion from taxable income of some benefits that Indian tribal governments provide to tribal members. Treasury and the IRS noted plans to hold consultation listening meetings to receive input on the general welfare exclusion directly from tribal leaders.
- On November 14, 2011, the IRS announced new guidance on revenue procedures that provide a safe harbor for Indian tribes to establish trusts for tribal members who are minors or legally incompetent, for the distribution of gaming revenues under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). It is available at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/rp-11-56.pdf
- In November 2011, the IRS invited the public to comment on the reallocation of available amounts of volume cap for TEDB in order to facilitate issuance by Indian tribal governments. The Treasury Department also announced a three-month optional extension for Indian tribal governments with unexpired volume cap allocations.
- On May 9, 2011, the Treasury Department announced its intention to create a Federal Advisory Committee on Insurance. This was one in a series of steps that Treasury took to establish the new Federal Insurance Office (FIO) created under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The Committee was created to provide advice to the FIO and the Treasury Department, including to the FIO Director in the Director's role as a member of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC). Through the Committee was structured so that the FIO and the Treasury Department could draw upon the deep knowledge and regulatory experience of state insurance regulators, as well as the perspective of industry experts, academics, and other stakeholders and affected constituencies. Half of the Committee's membership was reserved for state and tribal insurance regulators. Read the press release and the Federal Register Notice.
- On March 3, 2011, representatives from the Treasury and the IRS attended a Tribal Nations Conference Follow-up Meeting with Tribal Leaders. The meeting provided a forum for tribal leaders to discuss and distill recommendation from the 2010 White House Tribal Nations Conference. Topics of discussion within the Treasury Department's purview included Economic Development Bonds and New Market Tax Credits. If you have comment or questions on these or other topics, please send an email to us at the link below.
- On December 16, 2010, Treasury Deputy Secretary, Neal S. Wolin participated in the White House Tribal Nations Conference of 2010. Each of the 565 federally recognized tribes were invited to send one tribal leader to the conference, where they were able to interact directly with the President and representatives from the highest levels of his Administration. Following a keynote speech by President Obama, Treasury Deputy Secretary Wolin served on a panel addressing economic development, together with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shawn Donovan, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Export-Import Bank Chairman Hochberg and other high-level administration officials.
- In November 2010, deadlines for issuing bonds under the TEDB provision in Section 7871(f) of the Internal Revenue Code were extended. The deadline for the first tranche was extended to June 30, 2011 with the possibility of a further extension to the end of 2011 upon request. The deadline for the second tranche remained as of the end of December 2011. For more details, see the web posting by the Office of Indian Tribal Governments at the Internal Revenue Service.
- In August 2010, Treasury's progress report on a department-wide review of its tribal consultation policies, required by a Presidential Memorandum issued on November 5, 2009, was submitted on time to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). In accordance with President Obama's memo, Treasury planned to continue to submit to OMB an annual progress report on its tribal consultation process and activities.
- On July 23, 2010, Treasury submitted a progress report on its tribal consultation policy to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This report was issued in response to President Obama's Memorandum on Tribal Consultation, which required each agency head to submit a progress report on tribal consultation issues.
- Throughout the summer of 2010, the Treasury Department's Native American CDFI Assistance (NACA) Program, an arm of the CDFI Fund, launched a new "Economic Development Strategies in Indian Country" workshop series. Co-sponsored with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Seattle Branch, these workshops – in Albuquerque, Anchorage, Sacramento, Oklahoma City and Seattle – focused on economic development in Native communities. For more details, including plans for future workshops, see the NACA website.
- Also during the summer, Treasury participated in an administration-wide review of the United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This review ultimately led to the President's announcement, during his remarks at the White House Tribal Nations Conference in December, that the United States supports the U.N. Declaration.