US Department of Interior Seeks Input on Update to Tribal Trade Regulations

On December 9, the US Department of Interior posted an advance notice in the Federal Register seeking comment by April 10, 2017, from federally recognized tribes, states, their agencies, and the public on possible changes to the Indian Trader Regulations. The department is considering whether or not to update the regulations that have governed trade within Indian Country for over 50 years.

Indian Trader Regulations

The Licensed Indian Trade Regulations are contained within 25 CFR part 140,  which were first promulgated in 1957 and updated in 1965. Many tribes have developed comprehensive laws governing economic activity occurring on their land and tribal courts retain jurisdiction over Indian traders. However, tribes continue to face challenges related to their economic development efforts, including limitations on the ability to regulate trade with non-Indians and dual taxation of trade activity.

The department is looking to modernize these regulations to make them consistent with federal policies of tribal self-determination and self-governance. Tribes provide numerous services and programs to their members, and are responsible for ongoing infrastructure development to support their communities. Economic development and the related ability to tax trade activity or retain income earned from these activities are an important part of being able to finance tribal governments and meet the needs of its communities.

The department is only seeking comments on the following questions:

  • Should the federal government address trade occurring in Indian Country through an updated 25 CFR part 140, and why?
  • Are there certain components of the existing rule that should be kept, and if so, why?
  • How can the revisions to the existing rule ensure that persons who conduct trade are reputable and that there are mechanisms in place to address traders who violate federal or tribal law?
  • How do tribes currently regulate trade in Indian Country and how might revisions help tribes regulate trade in Indian Country?
  • What types of trade should be regulated and what type of traders should be subject to regulation?
  • How might revisions to the regulations promote economic viability and sustainability in Indian Country?
  • What services do tribes currently provide to individuals or entities doing business in Indian Country, and what role does tax revenue play in providing those services?

Make Your Voice Heard

This consultation and comment period is an important opportunity for tribes to ensure their views are considered. Comments must be submitted to the department on or before April 10, 2017. In addition, tentative consultations will take place from 8:30 a.m. to noon on the following dates:

  • Thursday, February 23, 2017—Seattle area
  • Tuesday, February 28, 2017—Southeastern United States
  • Thursday, March 2, 2017—Southern California
  • Tuesday, March 7, 2017—Billings, Montana
  • Thursday, March 9, 2017—Rapid City, South Dakota
  • Tuesday, March 14, 2017—Prior Lake, Minnesota
  • Thursday, March 16, 2017—Northeastern United States

We're Here to Help

Moss Adams will issue another Alert when the Department of Interior releases its proposed changes to trade regulations. In the meantime, contact your Moss Adams professional for questions on how changes to trade regulations could impact your tribe.