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Congressional amendment reduces car registration tax burden

For more information on vehicle registration and other Tax Commission services visit the Osage Nation website

Most Osages who own vehicles registered with the Osage Nation will now pay lower fees after the Eighth ON Congress voted to amend the Nation’s tax code to update the fee cost section.

Congress passed bill ONCA 23-52 (sponsored by Congresswoman Jodie Revard) that amended several code sections including the section for vehicle registration fees during the 2023 Hun-Kah Session.

“With regards to the vehicle registration, (this bill) decreases the (registration) renewal rates and makes the first-time registration fees based on the individual purchase price,” Revard told Congress before the bill vote. “It puts a larger tax burden on the more expensive vehicles and keeps the costs lower for those less expensive vehicles. It will lower the renewal (fee) for all Osages and make us competitive with the state and other tribal nations and lower renewals, we hope, will lead Osages to keep their vehicle registered with us instead of leaving after the initial registration.”  

With the law now changed, Osage vehicle owners will be charged 1.25% of the purchase price or factory delivered price on every passenger vehicle. Also, all vehicles purchased for $10,000 or less will be assessed a flat $125 fee for initial registration, according to ONCA 23-52.

For vehicle renewal fees, there will be a new chart used with the first-year renewal fee at $120 and a seventh-year renewal will cost $60. Vehicles that are renewed past seven years will have a $50 renewal fee each year. 

For the past several years, the Nation utilized a former chart for registration and renewal fees with the charge initially determined by the vehicle’s factory delivered price. The chart started at 0-$5,000 and ended at $60,000-and higher and was last updated in 2015.   

Jennifer Oberly, Tax Commission executive director, discussed the proposed law changes with the Congressional Commerce, Gaming and Land Committee during the session. She spoke on behalf of her office and the Tax Commission board, which reviewed the law for the proposed changes, including the vehicle registration fees. The board currently has three members including Teresa Bates Rutherford (chair), Beverly Brownfield (vice chair) and Rhonda Wallace (secretary).

Oberly noted the Tax Commission used a standard table in the code with set amounts and started researching what other respective tribal entities have for offering vehicle license tags to their constituents. “What we found is most of them are now using a percentage scale versus a stagnant chart that would have to come back and be amended every time inflation or car prices increase,” she said.

In the Tax Commission research, Oberly said some tribes are charging a 1.5% or 1% plus extra fees for titles and tags while the State of Oklahoma charges both excise tax and sales tax, which can add up to 4.5% on the price of a new vehicle.

With stagnant revenue levels in recent years, Oberly said “we don’t want to be at the bottom anymore, we think we can raise that up a little bit, but we also don’t want to make it astronomical that our constituents can’t afford to register new vehicles (with the Nation).”

By using a percentage scale, Oberly said “the larger tax burden is on those who are buying $80-$100-$120,000 vehicles, they’re the ones who are going to carry more of the tax burden versus the ones that are purchasing at a lower amount.”

For example, Oberly mentioned an individual visited her office in March who wanted to register a special-order Range Rover priced at $177,000 and by using the former chart, that person paid the same amount as she paid to tag her Hyundai vehicle because the chart stopped at $60,000. “That’s where we thought this isn’t fair … And it helps lower the ones who are paying $20,000 and $30,000 (for vehicles).”

Oberly said she also hoped the law change would increase vehicle renewal rates because “our first registration costs are so low that we are getting an abundance of people that come in to register (their vehicle) with us when they first get it and then they leave and go renew somewhere else. For example, I had (a constituent) who came in and I pulled up that person’s account … They had 76 cars registered with us, they renewed three and it’s because you can buy it, register with us super cheaper and then you can go to the state because the state is cheaper on renewal prices than we are.” 

According to ONCA 23-52, the same 1.25% percentage scale will apply to farm trucks or truck tractors used for farming purpose; commercial vehicles; ATVs and motorcycles; and recreational vehicles.

The bill also limits each Osage military veteran to have two non-personalized veteran license tags, which are taxed a flat annual rate of $15 per vehicle. Oberly said other discounted license tags are limited to two except the military veteran ones, which prompted the suggested amendment for consistency.

ONCA 23-52 passed with a 10-1 vote on April 18 with one “no” vote from Congressman John Maker and one absence from Congressman Joe Tillman that day. Citing concerns with no documented public input on the law changes, Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear vetoed the bill, which then received a veto override vote on April 24 to become law with a 10-1 vote with Maker voting “no” and one absence by Congressman Eli Potts at the time.

For more information on vehicle registration and other Tax Commission services visit the ON website at: https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/services/tax-commission 

Author

  • Benny Polacca

    Title: Senior Reporter

    Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

    Instagram: @bpolacca

    Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

    Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

    Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

    Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

    Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.

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Benny Polacca
Benny Polaccahttps://osagenews.org

Title: Senior Reporter

Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

Instagram: @bpolacca

Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.

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