Wash. Dept. of Revenue Draft Property Tax Advisory re: Great Wolf Case


PTA Improvements on Tribal Trust Land

An excerpt:

Question: May state and local governments assess property tax on permanent improvements built on land owned by the United States and held in trust for an Indian tribe?

Answer: No. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit determined in Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation v. Thurston County Board of Equalization, 724 F.3d 1153 (9th Cir. 2013) that where the United States owns land covered by 25 U.S.C. § 465 and holds it in trust for the use of a tribe, permanent improvements on that land are exempt from state and local property taxation.

Chehalis Tribes Win $22K+ in Costs from Thurston County in Tax Dispute


doc. 220 Plaintiff’s Motion for Costs

doc. 222 Response to Plaintiff’s Motion for Costs

doc. 226 Reply re Motion for Costs

doc. 228 Taxation of Costs

Bracker Motions for Summary Judgment Filed in Chehalis v. Thurston County

Here are those briefs:

Chehalis Motion for Summary J

Thurston County Motion for Summary J

Prior materials on this important case are here.

Summary Judgment Denied in Chehalis Great Wolf Lodge Tax Dispute

Here is the opinion in Confederated Chehalis Tribes v. Thurston County (W.D. Wash.) — DCT Order Denying Chehalis Motion for Summary Judgment (briefs are here, and an earlier opinion is here).

An excerpt:

n this case, the Court is not persuaded that the rule of Rickert applies to bar the taxation in question because this case involves a significantly different factual scenario. Although the site in Grand Mound is held in trust by the United States for the benefit of the Tribe, the Lessee, CTGW, owns the improvements in fee during the terms of the Lease. Moreover, it cannot be said that the improvements are “occupied” by the Tribe as CTGW currently uses the improvements to operate a hotel, conference center, and indoor water park. Therefore, the Rickert rule that was implemented to protect a homestead and associated livestock is, in this Court’s opinion, inapplicable to privately owned commercial business ventures even though the improvements are on land held in trust by the United States.

Second Update on Chehalis Great Wolf Tax Case

The court has ordered Chehalis to show cause as to this question (our earlier post with the briefings on the Tribe’s motion for summary judgment is here):

Plaintiffs have alleged a new claim in their complaint that Defendants’ failure to follow Revenue’s opinion is a violation of both state and federal law. See supra. The original complaint, however, involved claims based only on issues of federal law. See Dkt. 1. Thus, before reaching the merits of Plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion, the Court orders Plaintiffs to show cause, if any they have, why this Court should exert jurisdiction over this new claim. Although Plaintiffs allege that Defendants’ failure to follow Revenue’s decision is also a violation of “federal preemption law,” there has been no showing that a county assessor violates federal preemption law solely by failing to follow a state agency’s opinion as to the imposition of a tax. In other words, if Revenue had opined that the tax was not preempted and the assessor refused to impose the tax, it is questionable whether the assessor’s action in conflict with Revenue’s opinion would raise a federal question invoking this Court’s jurisdiction. Therefore, the new claim seems to be purely a matter of state law regarding the authority of the state agency, Revenue, over the Thurston County Assessor.

Plaintiffs bear the burden to show why the Court should assert jurisdiction over this state law claim and why the Court (1) should not abstain from this matter, (2) is not divested from jurisdiction over this matter, or (3) should not decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the new claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(1).

Here is the order — DCT Order to Show Cause re State Law Claims