Junk food tax back after revisions

Health, Education, and Human Services Committee approves new version of Healthy Diné Nation Act

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - The Health, Education, and Human Services Committee (HEHSC) approved legislation Oct. 8 seeking to pass the Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2014, which would impose an additional two-percent sales tax on food items considered to have minimal to no nutritional value on the Navajo Nation.

Legislation sponsor Council Delegate Danny Simpson (Becenti, Crownpoint, Huerfano, Lake Valley, Nageezi, Nahodishgish, Tse'ii'ahí, Whiterock) said he returned to the committee to answer questions regarding the Navajo Nation Office of the Navajo Tax Commission.

"We are here today to answer concerns raised by this committee regarding the tax commission and how the two-percent sales tax on non-nutritional food items will be implemented, especially the language in the legislation," Simpson said.

Navajo Tax Commission Executive Director Martin Ashley said in a memo that certain terms in the bill need to be clearly defined to avoid "the risk of diluting the definition upon which sales tax applies and determines taxpayer/compliance officer understanding of [the] term[s]."

Ashley encouraged HEHSC members to consider defining terms such as "retail business" and "minimal-to-no-nutritional value food items," as well as replacing "retail business" with the term "persons" to ensure the definitions coincided with Navajo Sales Tax policy currently enforced by the Navajo Tax Commission for regulation purposes.

HEHSC member Council Delegate Walter Phelps (Cameron, Coalmine Canyon, Leupp, Tolani Lake, Tsidi To'ii) voiced his concerns regarding some of the definitions, such as the term "persons," which is defined by the Navajo Tax Commission as "any organization, whether a sole proprietorship, partnership, joint venture, trust, estate, unincorporated association, company, corporation, or government."

"The definition is confusing, it is clear as mud to me," Phelps said. "Even if you replace 'retail business' with 'persons,' it still does not make sense because it is the context of the word 'persons,' that isn't clearly defined," adding that it did not include the definition of a natural living individual, but only a corporate entity.

HEHSC vice chair Council Delegate Charles Damon, II (Bááháálí, Chichiltah, Manuelito, Tsé Lichíí', Rock Springs, Tsayatoh) proposed amending the language in the legislation based on Ashley's recommendations, and to replace the term "retail business" with "persons" to compliment the current Navajo sales tax policies. The amendment passed with a vote of 3-0.

On Oct. 9, the Naabik'iyátí' Committee voted 9-6 to pass the legislation with one amendment, which changed the sunset clause of the legislation.

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