Tribal-County Payment In Lieu of Taxes Is Good Governance

An Idaho state official has expressed concern about a potential agreement between an Idaho county and neighboring tribal government for tribal payment of monies in lieu of property taxes. The official's concern is old hat. He needs a new hat. As Mark Trahant rightly observes, tribes and counties are better off working together than fighting each other over property taxation. That is especially true because any county effort to enforce property taxes against a tribal government presents a "rights without remedy" dilemma for the county, given the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity. See Oklahoma Tax Commission v. Citizen Band of Potawatomi Tribe of Oklahoma, 498 U.S. 505, 515 (1991). In other words, property tax controversy with tribes is a zero sum game for county government.

Indeed, the better approach is for neighbor counties and tribal governments to negotiate (or at least consult and attempt to negotiate) some cash or in-kind payment in lieu of taxes to any inter-local property tax dispute. Such an outcome a win win situation.

Gabriel "Gabe" Galanda is a partner at Galanda Broadman PLLC, of Seattle, an American Indian majority-owned law firm.  He is an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Covelo, California.  He can be reached at 206.691.3631 or, or via

[Also tagged under "mixed metaphors."]