Tribal fishing, hunting, and gathering

In Washington state, certain federally-recognized tribes and their members have tribal fishing, hunting, and gathering rights. This includes:

  • Fishing (including shellfish)
  • Hunting (including trapping)
  • Gathering
  • Harvesting
  • Processing
  • Transporting
  • Selling
  • Management and enforcement
  • Other related activities

Neither the Department nor the state of Washington create any new rights, or expand, extend, affect, or enlarge the scope of any existing rights beyond the context of potential tax liability. The guidance provided below is limited to the sales tax exemption on sales involving goods and services directly used in tribal fishing, hunting and gathering activities.

Sales tax

Retail sales tax does not apply to sales of goods and retail services that are directly used in tribal fishing, hunting and gathering activities. This exemption applies regardless of where delivery of the item or performance of the service occurs. Qualifying tribes and their citizens may purchase sales tax-exempt goods and services used in their fishing, hunting and gathering activities anywhere in Washington, no matter if the delivery occurs in Indian Country or not.

How to document the exempt transaction

To document the exempt nature of this transaction, the retailer will complete a Tribal Fishing, Hunting and Gathering Exemption form, noting the sale is to a qualifying tribe, tribal member of a qualifying tribe, or qualifying intertribal organization and what qualifying item(s) was sold. The retailer may verify the purchaser's information by either looking at a copy of their tribal identification card, tribal fishing card, or any documentation issued by the tribe on tribal stationery. Note: The retailer does not need to keep a copy of the identification or documentation. Noting the required information of the exemption form will suffice.

The form must be maintained in the seller’s records for up to five years. 

How to report the exemption

Retailers will report the gross sale under the state portion for retail sales tax and retailing business and occupation (B&O) tax on their return. A deduction for “Tribal fishing, hunting, gathering” may be taken from the state portion of retail sales tax. No corresponding deduction exists for retailing B&O tax.

Note: retailers will continue to report their gross sales under the retailing B&O tax.

Who qualifies for the exemption

The following tribes are "qualified tribes" for purposes of the exemption:

  • Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation
  • Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation
  • Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation
  • Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
  • Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon
  • Cowlitz Indian Tribe
  • Hoh Indian Tribe
  • Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe
  • Kalispel Indian Community of the Kalispel Reservation
  • Lower Elwha Tribal Community
  • Lummi Tribe of the Lummi Reservation
  • Makah Indian Tribe of the Makah Indian Reservation
  • Muckleshoot Indian Tribe
  • Nez Perce Tribe
  • Nisqually Indian Tribe
  • Nooksack Indian Tribe
  • Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe
  • Puyallup Tribe of the Puyallup Reservation
  • Quileute Tribe of the Quileute Reservation
  • Quinault Indian Nation 
  • Samish Indian Nation
  • Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe
  • Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe of the Shoalwater Bay Indian Reservation
  • Skokomish Indian Tribe
  • Snoqualmie Indian Tribe
  • Spokane Tribe of the Spokane Reservation
  • Squaxin Island Tribe of the Squaxin Island Reservation
  • Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians of Washington
  • Suquamish Indian Tribe of the Port Madison Reservation
  • Swinomish Indian Tribal Community
  • Tulalip Tribes of Washington
  • Upper Skagit Indian Tribe


The following nonexclusive list of organizations are “qualified intertribal organizations” for purposes of the exemption:

  • Columbia River Inter-tribal Fishery Commission (CRITFC).
  • Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC).
  • Skagit River Systems Cooperative (SRSC)
What qualifies for the exemption

Tangible retail goods and retail services directly used in tribal fishing, hunting, and gathering activities qualify for a retail sales tax exemption. A nonexclusive list of items can be found at dor.wa.gov/tribalexemptlist.

If you are unable to find an item on the list and are unsure whether it qualifies, we encourage you to write to us to request a tax ruling.

Seller information

A seller accepting a Tribal Fishing, Hunting, and Gathering form in good faith for retail sales of qualified goods or services made to a qualified purchaser will not be held liable for any uncollected sales tax. The seller must keep a copy of the Tribal Fishing, Hunting, and Gathering form in its records for five years after its last use.

Definitions

Qualified fishing, hunting, and gathering activities” means fishing, hunting, and gathering activities within the scope of the fishing, hunting, gathering rights for the qualified tribe. For the purposes of this definition, “hunting” includes trapping activities.

"Qualified goods or services" means retail goods and services used directly in tribal fishing, hunting, and gathering activities, including the goods and services listed dor.wa.gov/tribalexemptlist. (Note: The linked list of qualified goods and services is not exhaustive.)

Qualified purchaser” means qualified tribes, tribal member of a qualified tribe, or qualified intertribal organizations.

Need more information?

If you have questions about whether a specific good or service is exempt, you are encouraged to request a letter ruling from the department.