FAQs for Indian Tribal Governments regarding Terminology


These frequently asked questions and answers are provided for general information only and should not be cited as any type of legal authority. They are designed to provide the user with information required to respond to general inquiries. Due to the uniqueness and complexities of Indian law and Federal tax law, it is imperative to ensure a full understanding of the specific question presented, and to perform the requisite research to ensure a correct response is provided.

What is the General Welfare Doctrine?

Payments made under social benefit programs for promotion of general welfare are excludable from gross income under a concept known as the general welfare doctrine. This applies only to governmental payments out of a welfare fund based upon the recipient's need, and not as compensation for services.

The Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act of 2014 added IRC Section 139E. Section 139E provides an exclusion from income for payments from certain benefit programs provided by an Indian tribal government for the general welfare of its members.

What is the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act?

In the landmark decision in California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, the U. S. Supreme Court held that the state of California had no authority to apply its Regulatory statutes to gambling activities conducted in Indian Country.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. sections 2701 et seq., enacted in 1988, quickly followed to provide a statutory basis for regulation of tribal games. This law allows traditional Indian gaming as well as bingo, pull tabs, lotto, punchboards, tip jars, and certain card games on tribal land. However, it requires a Tribal/State compact for other forms of gaming such as cards or slot machines. Today, nearly 240 tribes in 28 states are involved in some kind of gaming.

The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) was established by Congress to develop regulations for Indian gaming.

What are mineral headrights?

Mineral headrights is a term used to denote a member's per capita share of tribal mineral income in certain tribes.