Agency Primer by IRG:
Wisconsin’s Department of Revenue
According to historical documents, the Department of Revenue dates back to 1868 when the state created the State Board of Assessors. The Board of Assessors, which was composed of the Secretary of State and the entire State Senate, was charged with executing the state’s taxing functions. At the time, property tax collections were the state’s primary source of revenue. Today, the state derives zero dollars from the property tax thanks to the elimination of the state’s share during Governor Walker’s term in office.
In 1899, the legislature created the Office of the Tax Commissioner to oversee the State Board of Assessors. Overtime, the composition of the State Board of Assessors changed with the addition of other constitutional officers including the State Treasurer and Attorney General. In 1905 the legislature eliminated the State Board of Assessors and created a three-member Tax Commission. This structure lasted until 1939, when the members were reduced to just one commissioner. When the executive branch was reorganized in 1967, the Tax Commission became the Department of Revenue. The new department would be headed by a secretary, appointed by the Governor, just as in other executive agencies. Today the names and the titles are the same, but the Department of Revenue does more than just oversee tax collection. Some of the other duties now include auditing local governments, administering the lottery, and the unclaimed property programs.
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