Managing Indian Trust Assets

This page provides basic information about Indian trust assets. Covered topics include:

What are Indian trust assets?

An Indian Trust Asset is something the Federal government holds title to, but the beneficial interest remains with a Native American individual or Tribe. In the case of trust lands, this means that an individual or Tribe earns money when companies lease rights to that land and when leased activities generate income, even though the Federal government holds title.

How are Indian Trust Assets acquired?

Indian Trust Assets are inherited, gifted, or received as part of a legal settlement.

How does trust land generate money?

Trust land generates money when a person or company pays for the rights to use that land and profit from that use. Uses include:

  • commercial, industrial, recreational, mineral, or agricultural leases
  • grazing and range permits
  • timber sales and permits
  • rights-of-way uses
  • land sales
  • court judgment or settlement awards

How do I get paid?

Income from Indian trust assets is paid through direct deposit, debit card, or check. Learn more about choosing how to receive your money.

What leases do I have on my land?

Every Individual Indian Money account holder should receive a quarterly statement detailing their account transactions and the composition of their trust assets. Please contact us if you don’t receive a quarterly statement or have questions about it.

Trust Assets & Taxes

Income Tax

Most income derived from land held in trust by the U.S. Government is exempt from Federal and state taxation for individual Indians. However, all interest income, capital gain income, and certain royalties are subject to Federal and state taxes. Read more about income taxes and Individual Indian Money accounts.

Property Tax

Property tax laws vary by state. Most states do not charge property tax on Indian trust land. Check with your state tax agency to see if you need to pay property tax. 

What is fractionated land?

Fractionation is the process of land parcels (or “allotments”) being passed down through generations, and, as a result, the parcels gain more and more individual owners. Although the land itself is not physically divided, children and spouses of the landowner become partial owners of the same original parcel. Many allotments now have hundreds and even thousands of individual owners.

What you can do on trust lands

Active Management

You can take the initiative and foster commercial use of your trust assets by creating a business plan. Business plans must be approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Contact a regional office to learn more about this process.

Residency

A lease agreement is required to live on or utilize the land in which you own an interest. Contact your local Tribal government or Bureau of Indian Affairs Realty Office to learn more.

PROTIP: If you’re a Veteran, and either you or your spouse is Native American, the Native American Direct Loan Program may help you get a loan to buy, build, or improve a home on your trust land.

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