ʻĀina Kūpuna Tax Relief: Landmark Bill Approved by Maui County Council


A groundbreaking tax relief bill that directly impacts Native Hawaiians in Maui County passed its second reading with unanimous approval by the Maui County Council on November 19.

Introduced by County Council Vice-Chair Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, Bill 118, “A Bill for an Ordinance Relating to ʻĀina Kūpuna Lands,” will amend the county tax code for land dedicated as “ʻāina kūpuna.”

This amendment to Maui County’s tax code is expected to set a precedent for other counties to consider similar tax relief for Native Hawaiians and other long-time kamaʻāina families who are being taxed out of their homes due to real estate speculation by outside investors.

“The Maui County Council has passed landmark legislation that protects lineal descendants who remain stewards of their ancestral ʻāina within the Special Management Area (SMA), and prevents kupa ʻāina from being priced off their family lands,” said Rawlins-Fernandez.

“I plan to continue this momentum with my next legislation, “ʻĀina ʻOhana,” which aims to offer respite for lineal descendants outside of the SMA, and to continue working with my counterparts on other county councils who have already expressed interest in passing similar legislation in their respective counties to protect the kuleana and legacy of Kānaka ʻŌiwi, as this is an issue across the pae ʻāina.”

Bill 118 identifies “ʻāina kūpuna” as real property owned in whole or in part in fee simple by one or more descendants of the person who owned the property at least eight years prior to the application.

It allows the lineal descendants of ʻohana land to “dedicate” it as ʻāina kūpuna. ʻOhana lands dedicated as ʻāina kūpuna will be levied the minimum annual property tax (about $350/year in Maui County). During the 10-year dedication period, the land cannot be sold to a non-lineal descendant. To maintain ʻāina kūpuna status, ʻohana must renew the dedication before the 10-year period ends.

For the Chang-Kukahiko ʻohana of Makena, Maui, this victory has been a long time coming.

Ed Chang, Jr., is a fifth-generation descendant of the Kukahiko ʻohana, and for years he has been at the forefront of the battle to protect their remaining ʻohana lands. For Chang, who will be 90-years-old in a few months, victory is sweet. “I am overjoyed with the passing of Bill 118 that enables my family to plan for a continued future in Makena,” he said.

“For many ʻohana like ours, it has been an overwhelming challenge to hold on to our ʻāina kūpuna,” added sixth-generation Kukahiko descendant Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa.

“Unfortunately, high-end upscale speculation and development have resulted in exorbitant taxes that, over time, have displaced and separated families from their ancestral lands. We are grateful to Council Vice Chair Keani Rawlins-Fernandez for championing this legislation and for the support of the Maui County Council in passing this long-overdue bill that provides tax relief through a 10-year renewable land dedication ordinance.”

The Maui County Real Property Assessment Division is now accepting information from potential ʻāina kūpuna applicants. The deadline to apply for the current fiscal year will be December 31, 2021.

Interested property owners should email rpa@co.maui.hi.us to request placement on the ʻāina kūpuna application mailing list. The email should include the following information: name, the TMK for the property, and a mailing address. The division will mail applications to those on the list, and upload the application to the mauipropertytax.com “forms” link once the bill is signed into law by Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino.

To read the original Ka Wai Ola article about the Chang-Kukahiko ʻohana’s fight to hold on to their ʻāina kūpuna and watch the Taxed Out video go to: www.kawaiola.news/cover/taxed-out/