Agua Caliente Tribe Asks Federal Judge to Stop County's Tax on Reservation

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians has filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to stop Riverside County from unlawfully imposing and collecting a possessory interest tax on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation, a tribal representative said Monday.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday Jan. 2, and it names Riverside County, Riverside County Assessor Larry Ward, Riverside County Auditor-Controller Paul Angulo, and Riverside County Treasurer-Tax Collector Don Kent, in their official capacities only, according to Kate Anderson, the tribe's director of public relations.

County representatives were not immediately available to comment for this report.

"The Tribe has long believed that Riverside County's possessory interest tax imposed on the Reservation is unlawful," the statement on behalf of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians says.

Here's more from the Jan. 6 statement:

The Tribe, a sovereign nation, bases its lawsuit on Federal law and a 2013 rule issued by the Department of Interior which confirms that possessory interest taxes imposed on Indian lands, such as Riverside County's tax, are unlawful and infringe on Tribal sovereign rights.

Riverside County presently assesses and collects a possessory interest tax on residents of the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation, but then uses a substantial portion of the revenues collected far outside of the Coachella Valley. If the lawsuit is successful, and Riverside County is forced to stop collecting the illegal tax, the Tribe plans to impose and collect its own possessory interest tax to benefit the local area.

The Tribe recently adopted a comprehensive taxation code and expects it could implement its tax with a smooth transition. The Tribe's tax would apply prospectively to possessory interest holders on the Tribe's Indian lands.

"Riverside County uses the money collected on the Reservation to benefit people living in other cities and areas far away from where the taxes are collected," Chairman Jeff L. Grubbe said. "The Tribe's desire is to keep tax money within our community to service the Coachella Valley."

"The Tribe remains committed to working collaboratively with all of our neighbors, including Riverside County, now and while the lawsuit is pending, to find the best path forward," Grubbe said.

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians is a federally recognized Indian Tribe in Palm Springs, California, with 32,000 acres of reservation lands that spread across Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, and into the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains.

The Tribe owns and operates two 18-hole championship golf courses, the Spa Resort Casino and Hotel in downtown Palm Springs, and the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage. For more info visit www.aguacaliente-nsn.gov.
Libi Uremovic January 07, 2014 at 08:35 AM
consistency is a big part of the law ...... if the county collects a possessory property tax on state and federal land then they county can claim the tax on tribal land... is a possessory tax charged on state and federal land ....????
Libi Uremovic January 07, 2014 at 08:36 AM
san diego county has a lot of reservations in the mountains....does san diego charge a possessory interest tax on tribal land..???
Jeremiah January 07, 2014 at 10:23 AM
This is vague and meaningless without a definition of "possessory interest" as accepted by the courts. A list of who is being charged a possessory interest tax would also help. **** Jeremiah
David January 07, 2014 at 11:45 AM
The possessory interest tax is collected for the structures on tribal land; most of the structures (condos, homes, hotels, businesses) on tribal land are owned by non-tribal persons/corporations. The county doesn't tax the land on the reservation.
Jeremiah January 07, 2014 at 07:22 PM
David - thank you. **** Jeremiah


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