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Income Taxation of Native Americans

Enrolled Tribal Member Certification Form

Form FTB 3504, Enrolled Tribal Member Certification, will be available January 2017.
You may file the certification form to declare your reservation residency and tax exempt status, which may prevent unnecessary notices.

1. Do you meet tax exemption requirements?

Generally, California taxes the entire income of California residents and the California source income of nonresidents. However, if you meet certain requirements, your income is exempt from California tax.


California does not tax your income if you:

  • Are an enrolled member of a federally recognized California Indian tribe, and live in your tribe’s Indian country, and earn or receive reservation source income from the same Indian country in which you live and are an enrolled tribal member.
  • Are an active duty U.S. military service member who receives military pay and you are stationed in California with orders to live outside Indian country.
  • Are a retired military service member who receives a military pension and you are residing on your tribe’s reservation.
  • Live outside California and receive per capita income from California sources (the federal government taxes per capita income no matter where you reside).


California taxes your income if you:

  • Earn or receive income outside of Indian country. This includes income earned or received from:
    • Tribes in which you are not a member.
    • Outside of California.
  • Receive or earn reservation sourced income, but live outside Indian country but within California.
  • Are a tribal member residing on your unaffiliated tribal member spouse's reservation.
  • Are a nontribal member spouse residing on your tribal member spouse's reservation.

Indian country includes reservations, dependent Indian communities, and Indian trust allotments.

2. Should you file the Enrolled Tribal Member Certification form?

The certification form is used to declare you reside within Indian country and meet tax exemption requirements. Filing the certification form is optional. However, doing so may help eliminate unnecessary contacts to or from us.

BrochureFTB 3512, Enrolled Tribal Member Certification Information

Tribal governments who want to provide information to their members regarding the certification form may download and print our brochure.

If you only have tax exempt income

File the certification form by itself as an information return.

When should you file the form? January 1 through October 15 of the year following the reporting year. Example: For 2016, file January 1, 2017, through October 15, 2017.

Mail the form to:
PO BOX 1998

If you have both tax exempt and nonexempt income

Also attach the following completed forms, which show your reservation and nonreservation income:

  • Form 1099, Miscellaneous Income
  • Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement

You should file following the current tax year's return due date (generally April 15 or the extended due date October 15).

Electronic List Option

In place of the certification form, the tribal government can submit a list on behalf of all enrolled members who live on the reservation. Call our tribal hotline for submission details.


Tribal Consultation Policy

Our Tribal Consultation Policy will be posted here by December 31, 2016.


No current notices.

Indian Country

Indian country is all:

  • Land within an Indian reservation under jurisdiction of the United States (U.S.) government including the rights-of-way running through the reservation.
  • Dependent Indian communities within the U.S. borders under the U.S. government’s jurisdiction.
  • Indian allotments, to where Indian titles exist, including the rights-of-way that run through the allotments.

Even if you live in Indian country, you're still a California resident.

Refer to 18 U. S. C. 1151 for additional details.

Per Capita Distribution

Indian tribes that conduct gaming activities on a California reservation may use gaming profits for all tribe members’ general welfare. The law allows tribes to distribute gaming income to each tribal member (per capita) after meeting or accounting for tribal obligations. The tribal member’s residence determines whether or not California taxes the per capita payments.

Reservation Source Income

In response to several court cases and questions, we examined the issue of whether “reservation source income” should be interpreted as income paid by any employer (public or private) and earned by a tribal member while that member is physically located within the geographic borders of the reservation, or more narrowly limited to income earned on the reservation and paid only by a tribal payer. After reviewing legal authority, we determined income earned for services performed on the reservation by tribal members who live on their tribe’s reservation is tax-exempt, whether it is paid by the tribe or by a third party.

Legal Ruling 2015-1

Legal Ruling 2015-1 provides guidance regarding factors we’ll use to determine whether a tribal member resides on or off the reservation.

Revenue Procedure 2014-35

Revenue Procedure 2014-35 explains the application of the general welfare exception to tribal government programs. Because Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 61 provides that gross income includes income in all forms, the Internal Revenue Service previously concluded that certain government benefits may be excluded from “income” provided they meet the general welfare exception.

Payments must include all the following requirements to meet the general welfare exception:

  • Be made pursuant to a governmental program.
  • Be for the promotion of the general welfare.
  • Not represent compensation for services.

This Revenue Procedure considers the “unique circumstances of Indian tribes and tribal governments” and provides specific details under which the exception applies to tribal government programs.

As California conforms to IRC Section 61 under Revenue and Taxation Code Section 17071, we follow Revenue Procedure 2014-35 to apply the general welfare exception for purposes of tribal government programs to tribal members.

Past Consultation Sessions

09/18/2013 - Tribal Leaders Consultation Session and Interested Parties Meeting Report
07/14/2015 - Tribal Leaders Consultation Session and Interested Parties Meeting Report

Enrolled members, tribal governments, or designated representatives can call our tribal hotline at 916.845.2790.

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