Commissioner of Revenue

Definition of Assessment

An official valuation of property for the purpose of levying a tax; an assigned value.

The Commissioner’s Services

  • To assess all Arlington County property taxes, except real estate
  • To discover and equitably assess all personal property such as cars, motorcycles and boats.
  • To discover and equitably assess all business property such as computers and office furniture.
  • To administer business taxes such as business license tax and custodial taxes, including meals tax, short-term rental tax, transient occupancy (hotel) tax, and others.
  • To provide protection of confidential taxpayer information.
  • To provide checks and balances, ensuring that no one governmental entity has total taxing authority over its citizens.
  • To operate a DMV Select, providing citizens with Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) service.
  • To provide taxpayer assistance with State income tax returns.

Organization

  • Chief Deputy Commissioner
  • Customer Advocate
  • Business Tax
  • Compliance
  • Vehicle Personal Property Tax

View the Commissioner of Revenue Organizational Chart.

History

Assessing property in Virginia started in the early 1600s when sheriffs prepared lists of property to be taxed, including personal property and people. In the mid-17th century, the courts took over this responsibility, and this system worked well, but it placed a large burden on the courts during the Revolutionary War. The General Assembly then created three Commissioners of Tax per county, elected for one year. Assessors also prepared property lists, attached a value to them and calculated the taxes due.

In 1786, the General Assembly established the office of the Commissioner of Revenue. The County Court appointed each Commissioner, who kept a tax book, determined what property to tax, worked with the Clerk to determine the levy and provided a copy to the Sheriff for tax collection. In 1851, the Commissioner of Revenue was specifically incorporated into Virginia’s Constitution, and the General Assembly made it an elective office in 1908. In 1910, a popular vote approved an amendment to the Constitution that established a four-year term for the office and allowed Commissioners to succeed themselves.

Since the 1920s, the State Compensation Board has determined the salaries of constitutional officers (Clerk of the Court, Commissioner of Revenue, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Sheriff and Treasurer). Normally, localities augment the state-approved funding levels, but because these offices provide vital government services, they should be directly accountable to the electorate — thus, the belief that voters should elect constitutional officers.