September 23, 2014  |  Issue 14-28




Self-Governance 101 Training 

September 29, 2014

Denver, CO

Indian Health Service Budget Summit

October 13 and 14, 2014

Washington, DC

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In This Issue



Save the Date! 

Indian Health Service Budget Summit - October 13 and 14

On October 13 and 14, Tribes from across Indian Country will gather in Washington, DC to discuss strategies for increasing and improving the Indian Health Service (IHS) budget.

The 2014 IHS Budget Summit aims to engage Tribal leaders, technical advisors, academic experts, and Federal government representatives in strategic discussions about current and future budget and appropriations for IHS. Throughout the two-day meeting, participants will discuss topics including:  budget formulation process, current budget climate, budget priorities, and future recommendations for budget development. 


Indian Country is working together to develop the Summit agenda, bringing experts from across the branches of Government to identify strategies that reflect the needs of Tribal communities across the country.   

Click here for a draft agenda. 

Please contact Caitrin Shuy, NIHB's Director of Congressional Relations with any questions at or (202) 507-4085.


Capitol Hill Updates

Congress Passes Continuing Resolution - Government Funded until December 11

Last week, Congress passed a short-term spending measure - or Continuing Resolution (CR) for FY 2015 that will keep the federal government funded until December 11, 2014.  This measure was passed with bipartisan support, as Members of Congress were eager to get home to their districts in advance of the November elections.   


The next steps for FY 2015 funding remains a question.  Members of the Appropriations Committees on both sides of the aisle would like to pass an entire FY 2015 Appropriations package when Congress returns from the elections in November or December.  However, other Congressional analysts have noted that if Republicans gain control of the Senate, it is possible that crafting a spending bill could be pushed to January when the new Congress takes office.


This latest Continuing Resolution is more evidence that Congress must pass IHS advance appropriations, which would mean that IHS would have its funding a year ahead of time.  Former NIHB Chair Cathy Abramson wrote an op-ed in support of Advance Appropriations for IHS which appeared in The Hill newspaper on September 22.  You can read it here  


For more questions on Advance Appropriations for IHS or to request #Advance IHS postcards, please contact NIHB Director of Congressional Relations at (202) 507-4085 or 


On Thursday, September 18, Congress passed H.R. 3043 the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act.  The law will amend the Internal Revenue Code (Code) to reform the work of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in Indian Country and make clear that the benefits and services provided by tribal governments for the general welfare of their people are not subject to federal income tax.  The purpose of H.R. 3043 is to provide a durable, statutory protection for tribal government programs and services that honors their status as Indian nations, vested with inherent sovereign authority to provide for tribal citizens.


The path to this legislation began in 2005 when the Internal Revenue Service Office of Tribal Governments began an aggressive audit campaign against tribes, finding that programs and services provided by tribal governments to their citizens were a form of taxable income and imposing penalties against tribes for failing to issue 1099 forms. Even though no federal, state, or local government programs were subject to the same taxation, the IRS grew increasingly strict, alleging that backpacks provided to schoolchildren or travel provided to elders for healthcare were a form of taxable income. As these audits spread from tribe to tribe, tribal leaders became increasingly unified and vigorously opposed.


The IRS responded with guidance, Revenue Procedure 2014-35, that set up a series of "safe harbors" for tribal programs and services.  H.R. 3043 makes the recognition of tribal programs permanent, suspends audits during a period for training, and creates a tribal advisory committee to communicate with the IRS and build the government-to-government relationship.



Senator Maria Cantwell Introduces bill to Revoke NFL Tax Exempt Status if it doesn't change Washington Team Name

On September 18, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced legislation that would remove the tax-exempt status for the National Football League (NFL) if it continues to promote the name of the Washington Reds*ins. 


NIHB applauds Senator Cantwell for introducing this important bill.  The name of the Washington football team is nothing short of a racial slur, and no organization promoting this name should get a special tax status.  You can read more about the legislation here.

Administration Updates

As many of you are aware, the Indian Health Service (IHS) announced in a Dear Tribal Leader Letter on September 2, 2014, that it would have to reprogram $48 million from other IHS accounts to make up for a shortfall in Contract Support Costs (CSC).  In FY 2014, Congress required that CSC be fully-funded. The letter noted that more than half of this additional need was related to requests from Tribes to renegotiate their CSC need for existing contracts.  


However, on Friday, September 19, the IHS announced that due to reconciling ongoing CSC and working to finish negotiations with Tribes on CSC, the amount that needed to be reprogrammed would be about $25 million.  The reprogramming will mostly come from headquarters services line items but some must still come from IHS Areas, though less than originally anticipated.  IHS will be providing more information soon on the specific impacts.  You can view IHS' slides on the most recent update here.

While this is important news, there is still a need for a long term solution to avoid potential recurrent impact to the services account for IHS each year.   IHS will be moving tribal recommendations forward for discussion with the administration and Congress.


Tribal Exemption From the Shared Responsibility Payment


On September 18, during the Secretary's Tribal Advisory Committee meeting, the Secretary announced that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is releasing guidance which allows individuals who are eligible for services through an Indian health care provider, including the Indian Health Service (IHS), to obtain a hardship exemption from the shared responsibility payment through the tax filing process. 

Previously, only members of federally-recognized tribes and shareholders of ANCSA corporations had the option to receive an exemption through the tax return filing process.  Individuals who are not members of federally recognized tribes, but who are eligible for services through an Indian healthcare provider, could previously only apply for an exemption on this basis through the Health Insurance Marketplace.  Yesterday's announcement allows these individuals to also have a choice of claiming the hardship exemption through the tax filing process.


The option to claim this exemption through the tax filing process is available beginning with 2014 tax returns filed in 2015.  The IRS and Treasury Department will also provide guidance, including forms and instructions, which describe the process.


For  more information, click here


These links are to the IRS draft forms and instructions that will be available to file a Health Care Coverage Exemption: 



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