Yellowstone National Park remains a tax haven

Submitted by Keith Dahlem
Posted 4/23/20

Dear Editor:

Dan Roads the park liaison to Gardiner schools, who drove to the first meeting with the Powell School Board in the Powell District No. 1 offices in 2013 with the car he drove down in …

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Yellowstone National Park remains a tax haven


Dear Editor:

Dan Roads the park liaison to Gardiner schools, who drove to the first meeting with the Powell School Board in the Powell District No. 1 offices in 2013 with the car he drove down in is still parked at his quarters on Officers Row in Mammoth — right next to Superintendent Cam Sholly’s residence — still has the same Gallatin County license plates  with the same plate number as when he was in Powell, a county No. 6 Montana Bozeman plate.

As a Wyoming resident I get the privilege of paying higher property taxes every year to pay for those students who live in Yellowstone who go to school in Gardiner but pay no taxes on the residential or commercial property that they live in or work in. Property tax usually goes to support the schools in the rest of Wyoming along with my vehicle registrations which was recently raised by $30 for every vehicle licensed — even my 1971 VW or my $400 1975 pickup truck. But some of you don’t think the guy who works in the park for less than four months must pay his legally mandated $50 per month vehicle registration on his million dollar motorhome or his $90,000 to $250,000 crew cab truck that lives in Yellowstone from April 1 to Nov. 7 each year?

Now if Wyoming had an income tax all the residents and workers in Yellowstone would be required to pay Wyoming income tax per federal law. The concessionaires take in hundreds of millions of dollars in Yellowstone every year, but are not responsible for any property taxes or income taxes. What a tax haven. Not the same for their competition that operates on private land or national forests in Montana or Wyoming. Even those that operate in Teton or Glacier national parks pay property and in Montana income taxes to boot. The property tax issue needs to be addressed with federal legislation but the vehicle registration is completely an administrative act by the concessionaires: no proof of Wyoming registration, no employee decal sticker for your driver’s window or pass that provides free access into all entrances of the park, no assigned RV spot or room assignment if that be the case.

As far as the concessionaires paying taxes to Park and Teton counties along with the State of Wyoming, most of the monies that the concessionaires send to the counties and the state are paid by the visitor and just collected by the concessionaires and passed through. These include lodging taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes, and excise taxes. So what taxes come out of the concessionaires’ pockets? They even charge the visitor a utility fee (on every dollar spent in Yellowstone) for flushing the toilet. A 5.5% fee on rooms and 2.5% on all other purchases is authorized by the Park Service to offset the cost that concessionaires are charged for their water and sewer service. This income is not counted as income by the concessionaires but goes directly to their bottom line.

No income taxes are paid to the State of Wyoming, but income taxes are paid to Montana if the employees work in Montana. It is a sad situation that a tax haven exists inside of the Wyoming portion of Yellowstone where no real or personal property taxes are collected on the residential or commercial facilities, because every resident of the rest of Wyoming has been paying for the education of the students who live in Yellowstone to go to school in Gardiner, Montana, since 2013 and the same if those students choose to go to college at any Wyoming institution

It is hard to believe that the head man in charge of Yellowstone would downplay Wyoming law on behalf of his employees and the park’s concessionaires and their employees with their vehicle registration, which is mandated by federal law. What is even sadder is that vehicle registration is still an issue in Yellowstone; it should have been corrected years ago!

The question of real and personal taxes has to be taken up and changed by Congress, which is really the only fair way to handle the current inequity in Yellowstone as it is not fair to the rest of the businesses and residents of Wyoming. This does make the case for a Wyoming state income tax because then all income earned in Yellowstone by concessionaires or the residents of Yellowstone would be taxed by the State of Wyoming, per current federal law.

Keith Dahlem