Friday, January 18, 2013

Tax Court Rejects Free Exercise and Equal Protection Challenge To Exclusion of Navajo Clan Relatives As Children

In Begay v. Commissioner, (USTC, Jan. 16, 2013), the U.S. Tax Court held that the definition of dependents in Sec. 152 of the Internal Revenue Code does not violate the free exercise or equal protection rights of a taxpayer who is a tribal elder of the Navajo Indian Nation.  At issue was the government's refusal to allow petitioner to treat a "clan relative" as a "qualifying child" in order to obtain head of household filing status, the earned income credit, and child tax credit. In Navajo culture and tradition, children are considered children of everyone in their clan. Taxpayer argued that the exclusion from the section 152(c)(2) of obligatory clan-based relationships violates her free exercise and equal protection rights.