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Unalaska City Council votes to support partial tax exemption for tribal governments

qawalangin_tribe_recycle.jpg
Theo Greenly
/
KUCB
The Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska was previously exempt from city sales tax as a nonprofit. But the city changed the criteria for nonprofit exemptions several years ago, and the tribe no longer qualifies for it.

The Unalaska City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday night to support a partial tax exemption for federally recognized tribes.

The exemption would protect tribes from paying sales taxes on government activities, like buying office supplies or organizing culture camps.

The city council’s vote in support on Tuesday moves the proposed tax exemption forward another step. The council is set to take another vote in early February to officially add the exemption to city code.

The Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska requested the exemption. It was previously exempt from city sales tax as a nonprofit. But the city changed the criteria for nonprofit exemptions several years ago, and then the tribe no longer qualified.

Chris Price is the tribe’s chief officer, and he said he’s happy the city is moving forward with the tax exemption.

“I think it’s really good because it just shows the intent of the city to recognize the tribe as a government and to continue to build the relationship that we have in this community, and people understanding what tribes are and how we function,” Price said.

The limited exemption only protects the tribe from paying taxes for government and nonprofit activities. They would still need to pay taxes on commercial activities, such as operating a hotel. The Qawalangin Tribe does not currently have any commercial projects.

The council voted unanimously to advance the measure to their next council meeting on Feb. 8, when they’re expected to vote to add it to the city’s code.

Theo Greenly reports from the Aleutians as a Report for America corps member. He got his start in public radio at KCRW in Santa Monica, California, and has produced radio stories and podcasts for stations around the country.
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