History of the Office of Commissioner of Revenue
Assessing property in Virginia started in the early 1600's when sheriffs prepared lists of property to be taxed. This included personal property and people! The courts took over this responsibility in the mid 17th century. This system worked well, but during the Revolutionary War it placed a large burden on the courts, so that the General Assembly created three Commissioners of Tax per county, elected for one year. In addition, assessors prepared lists of property, attached a value to it, and calculated the tax due.
The office of Commissioner of Revenue was established by the General Assembly in 1786. Each Commissioner was appointed by the County Court, 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 collection of the tax. In 1851, the Commissioner of Revenue was specifically incorporated into Virginia's Constitution. The office was made elective by the General Assembly in 1908. In 1910, an amendment to the Constitution was approved by popular vote which established a four-year term for the office. This amendment also allowed Commissioners to succeed themselves.
The State Compensation Board has determined the salaries of Constitutional Officers (Clerk of the Court, Commissioner of Revenue, Commonwealth's Attorney, Sheriff and Treasurer) since the 1920's. Normally, localities augment the state approved funding levels. Because these offices are responsible for vital government services, they should be directly accountable to the electorate. Hence, the belief that Constitutional Officers should be hired by the voters.
Responsibilities of the Commissioner of Revenue
The Commissioner of Revenue is the tax assessing officer for the County for all property with the exception of real estate. She is responsible for discovering personal property (cars, motorcycles, boats) and business property (computers and office furniture) in the jurisdiction, and assessing them equitably. In addition, the Commissioner is responsible for administering business taxes such as business license tax, and custodial taxes such as restaurant tax, short-term rental tax, transient occupancy tax, and others. The Commissioner is also responsible for assisting taxpayers with their state income tax returns.