Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina

Indian Country Today

Band leaders may ask legislators to exempt tribal members from paying state and local sales taxes.

The Cherokee Tribal Council voted Sept. 13 to explore the feasibility of securing the sales tax exemption for the tribe’s 12,500 enrolled members. Such an exemption could save members thousands of dollars. State laws generally exempt band members from paying North Carolina taxes. For example, all members are exempt from state income taxes, but do pay federal income tax. Also, residents of and visitors to the Cherokee Indian Reservation do not pay state or local sales taxes on items they purchase there. Instead, they pay a 7 percent ‘tribal levy” on purchases, which generates about $6 million annually for tribal government. Enrolled members who shop at stores off the reservation do pay sales taxes. Several tribal officials supported seeking an exemption, saying tribal government should look out for its citizens. Others, including Principal Chief Leon Jones and David Nash, the tribe’s attorney general, urged caution. They said that lobbying for the exemption could damage the tribe’s relationship with state officials on gambling, the Eastern Band’s principal moneymaker. Nash also told council members that the state’s tight budget situation makes any exemption unlikely because of the revenue loss to the state.