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Navajo-Hopi Observer | Flagstaff, Arizona

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12/17/2013 10:26:00 AM
Law and Order Committee considers new alcohol tax
Navajo-Hopi Observer

WINDOW ROCK - Navajo Nation lawmakers are considering an additional sales tax on alcohol sold in the Nation's casinos. The tax would be in addition to the current 5 percent tax on alcohol.

Office of the Navajo Tax Commission (ONTC) executive director Martin Ashley addressed Law and Order Committee (LOC) members Dec. 9.

"ONTC is presently charged with regulating liquor licensing to the casinos and alcohol distributors, but we are finding that it is costly and we need additional funding to carry out these responsibilities efficiently," said Ashley.

Ashley said ONTC's duty is to regulate taxes on the Navajo Nation. He added the responsibility of regulating liquor licensing should be separate from ONTC's obligations.

Ashley suggested that two offices should be created with one office regulating liquor licensing and sales and the other collecting alcohol sales taxes.

LOC Chair Edmund Yazzie (Churchrock, Iyanbito, Mariano Lake, Pinedale, Smith Lake, Thoreau) asked if Arizona and New Mexico have their own alcohol tax.

Ashley said alcohol taxation occurs at the distributor level and is paid to the states. He added that distributors sell to the Navajo casinos, but conduct business off-reservation to avoid buying a Navajo Nation liquor license and only pay license fees to the states.

ONTC staff attorney Chad Yazzie, told the committee that an intergovernmental agreement between the Navajo Nation and the states could be drafted to cover the loopholes that distributors are taking advantage of through off-reservation sales.

"Does the Navajo Nation have a liquor sales permit already in place?" asked LOC member Council Delegate Russell Begaye (Shiprock).

Ashley said the Commission has seven approved statutes already in place since the opening of the Nation's first casino five years ago, which regulate liquor licensing and sales in casinos.

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