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Protocol for Contacting Tribes

IRM provides the steps to be considered when scheduling a visit to a tribal entity:

(1) Contacts with tribes should be diplomatic in tone and should express the
Service’s desire to meet with the leaders of the tribe to discuss, on a government-to-government basis, tax issues of mutual interest and concern. The approach should be “Our government would appreciate the assistance and cooperation of your government”. Generally, based on history, the Federal government is viewed by tribal entities with mistrust and suspicion. An understanding of the history and culture of the tribe, along with its political organization, will assist in establishing effective “government-to-government” relationships.

(2) The following steps should be considered when scheduling a visit to a tribal

a. Contact the responsible tribal official(s), via phone or mail, and set an appointment for a convenient time to meet. Inform the tribal official(s) of the purpose of the appointment (education/outreach endeavor, compliance review, or examination). The IRS employee should express a willingness to repeat this information to the tribal council or other tribal representatives if requested.

Note: To determine the responsible tribal official for various types of contacts, refer
to the Disclosure and Privacy portion of this manual section. See IRM

b. The initial meeting may be with the tribal official(s) or a designee of the
tribal official(s). This meeting should include an introduction and a discussion of the issues and information needed to complete the work assignment. Personal contact is essential to obtain an understanding of tribal perspectives and concerns. As necessary, additional appointments should be scheduled with the designated tribal official to complete the educational/outreach endeavor, compliance review, or examination.

c. In situations when multiple IRS employees will be participating in a work assignment, their activities should be closely coordinated with the tribal official(s) or designee.

d. If another Federal agency is currently working with the tribe on matters which closely relate to tax administration, immediately determine the scope of the other agency’s involvement and elevate that information to IRS management. Interagency cooperation may resolve conflicts and avoid misunderstandings.

e. The IRS employee should hold a meeting with the tribal official(s) to inform them of any findings, recommendations, or proposed tax adjustments when the assignment is completed. The IRS employee should thank the tribal official(s) for their cooperation.

(3) Here are some things to keep in mind when working with tribal governments:


 Item  Situation  Strategy
 a. Respect tribal council officials as officials of another government.

• Take the time to learn their
official title, such as Chairman,
President, Secretary, Treasurer,

• Tribal council officials expect to be treated in the highest professional manner when conducting business.

 b. Like all business relationships,
honesty and integrity are highly valued.
• A sense of humor is appreciated, but generally, serious business-like behavior is appropriate.
 c. Personal interest in tribal political and cultural history is appreciated, but don’t let your personal interest interfere with your mission or task. • When possible, do your homework ahead of time to help you understand a situation or issue.
 d. Understand there are different ways of communicating. • For some tribes, the written
word is not the appropriate way
to make initial contact with the
 e. During negotiations, prepare to discuss. • Discuss all aspects of an issue
at hand simultaneously, rather
than sequentially.
 f. It is customary to shake hands with
everyone in the room.
• Always shake hands when introduced, meeting someone and departing.
 g. Like most people, tribal leaders object to being “consulted” by people who have little intention of doing anything in response to their concerns. • Be prepared to negotiate, to
the extent that you have authority, to find ways to accommodate
the tribe’s concerns.

• Be prepared to respond with
reasons why the advice may or
may not be followed.
 h. Remember that tribal people may perceive themselves as having a long history of uneven relationships with the Federal Government. They may be
suspicious of your proposals.
• Do not expect a sympathetic
attitude to be automatic.
 i. Be flexible about setting deadlines, if
• To be effective, try to follow the most natural schedule.

• If the mission requires that particular deadlines must be set, be sure to explain what they are
and why they must exist.

• Expect to negotiate about them.
 j. Those you consult with might not be able to answer questions immediately.
They may have to think about it and consult with others.
• As a result, it may be
necessary to pose a question
and then go away while they
consider and debate the matter.
 k. Do not assume one American Indian
speaks for all American Indians or
tribal governments.
• Take advantage of organizations like the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the Urban Indian Advisory Council or
regional tribal associations for broad input.