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TAX COMMISSION
[Constitution, Article V, Section 12; NDCC Chapter 57-01]

Prior to creation of the office of Tax Commissioner state tax collections were made by a variety of agencies and offices. The Tax Commission was established in 1911 (S. L. 1911, Ch. 303) and consisted of three nonpartisan members appointed by the Governor for staggered six-year terms. The members were to be knowledgeable about taxation.  Major duties included general supervision over the administration of assessment and tax laws of the state and supervision of over assessors, boards of review, and boards of equalization. The Tax Commission was replaced by the newly authorized Tax Commissioner in 1919 (S. L. 1919, Ch. 213). The Tax Commissioner was appointed by the Governor for a six-year term. An amendment to the North Dakota State Constitution in 1938 made the office of the Tax Commissioner elective. The office of the Tax Commissioner was created by an amendment to the North State Dakota Constitution in 1939 and the Tax Commissioner was elected to a four-year term on a no-party ballot. In 1987 the Tax Commissioner was removed from no-party ballot (S. L. 1987, Ch. 253).

As the head of the Tax Department the Commissioner has the authority for administration of the state tax laws and collects all taxes, audits tax collections, and assists in establishing uniformity of procedures for collection of property taxes. The Tax Department audits individual, corporate, and other income tax returns, supervises all tax assessors and local boards of equalization. Some of the specific taxes the Commissioner administers and collects are income tax, sales and use tax, cigarette tax, oil and gas gross production tax, oil extraction tax, coal severance tax, motor fuel tax, privilege tax on coal conversion facilities, estate tax, and tax on banks and savings and loan companies. The Commissioner administers other laws under which taxes are paid to county treasurers such as the bank and savings and loan taxes, taxes on rural electric cooperatives, and mutual telephone companies. The Commissioner offers expert testimony to the Legislative Assembly on tax legislation.

The Tax Commissioner is a member on the Multi-state Tax Commission and members from other states works to enhance the ability of state revenue departments to enforce compliance with tax laws applying to multi-state business. Since 1923 the Commissioner has also served as Secretary for the State Board of Equalization. Qualifications for the Tax Commissioner include being a qualified elector of the state and at least twenty-five years old. The Commissioner may appoint deputies, employees, clerks, experts, and other persons as necessary in maintaining the Commissioner’s office and perform duties for which the Legislative Assembly may appropriate funds [NDCC 57-01-04]. The office of Commissioner must be at the State Capitol.   

Since 1919 North Dakotan’s have been served by twenty-five Tax Commissioners. From 1929 to 1939 there were seven elected or appointed who were to serve as Commissioners. Extensive litigation by one of the Commissioners kept two other appointees from taking office. The longest serving Tax Commissioner was Byron Dorgan who served twenty-one years.  Mary Kathryn “Heidi” Heitkamp was appointed on December 2, 1986 by Governor Sinner to fill the unexpired term of Kent Conrad. She is the first and only woman to serve as Tax Commissioner. 

CHRONOLOGY

1865       The Governor, Auditor, and Treasurer constituted the Territorial Board of Equalization (T. L. 1865, Ch. 24).

1867       The County Commissioners were responsible for collecting taxes and turning them over to the Territorial Treasurer. The County Sheriff did the actual collecting (T. L. 1867, Ch. 23).

1868       The County Treasurer was known as the collector of taxes (T. L. 1868, Ch. 25).

1911       A nonpartisan three-member Tax Commission appointed by the Governor was created. Members served terms at six-years staggered.  Members needed to be knowledgeable on taxation. Duties included the general supervision over the administration of assessment and tax laws of the state, over assessors, boards of review, and boards of equalization (S. L. 1911, Ch. 303).

1919       The Governor appointed a State Tax Commissioner for a term of six years to assume the duties previously conferred on the Tax Commission including that of general supervision of taxation in the state (S. L. 1919, Ch. 213). The State Tax Commissioner became the general administrative officer of the State Board of Equalization (S. L. 1919, Ch. 124).  When based upon the assessed valuation of property in a county, legislation set limits on tax levies and debt limits relating to salaries, powers, and duties of public officials for counties and political subdivisions.

1923       The Tax Commissioner became the Secretary for the State Board of Equalization. The purpose of the Board was to equalize the valuation and assessment of property throughout the state so that all assessments were uniform and equal (S. L. 1923, Ch. 306).

1939       In an initiated measure regarding laws pertaining to cigarettes, cigarette paper, snuff, and beer the voters approved of a transfer from the Regulatory Department to the Tax Department (S. L. 1939, Ch. 258). Voters also determined that the Tax Commissioner was to serve on a no-party ballot for a term of four years [Constitutional Amendment, S. L. 1939, Article 52].

1940       The first Tax Commissioner was elected [Constitution, Article V, Section 12].

1961       A State Supervisor of Assessments was created and appointed by the Tax Commissioner and had an office within the office of the Tax Commissioner (S. L. 1961, Ch. 342).
                                                                                                                               
1963       Legislation concerned details of a State Departmental Report of Recommendations by the Commissioner and the State Board of Equalization to be submitted to the Governor and Secretary of State (S. L. 1963, Ch. 346). A subsection to the Century Code [NDCC 57-01-05] related to the duties of the Supervisor of Assessments (S. L. 1963, Ch. 374).

1965       Legislation authorized the Tax Commissioner to prepare tax manuals and distribute “for a reasonable charge” loose leaf tax manuals relating to tax laws administered by the Tax Commissioner (S. L. 1965, Ch. 384).

1969       Amendments to subsections [NDCC 57-01-05] related to studies of sales ratio and other property assessments in various counties and cities (S. L. 1969, Ch. 130).  The Legislature requested that the State Tax Commissioner conduct a review of the Sales Ratio Study (S. L. 1969, Ch. 467).

1973       For taxation purposes a sales, market, and productivity study was requested by the State Legislature concerning the use of such studies in the assessment and equalization of property. The Century Code was amended and related to the authority of the State Supervisor of Assessments and the State Tax Commissioner to identify property that should be excluded from in the studies (S. L.1973, Ch. 444).

1975       The Legislature requested that the Tax Commissioner be given authority to remove certain uncollectable accounts from the Commissioner’s records.  Legislation also addressed the powers and duties of the Commissioner (S. L. 1975, Ch. 503).
 
1977       Legislative changes were made to the Century Code concerning amendments to income tax laws, including definitions and specific taxes such as income and business and corporation privilege tax (S. L. 1977, Ch. 536). A new chapter [NDCC 57-01] added to the Century Code related to contractual agreements for the collection of sales and use tax by the Tax Commissioner on behalf of incorporated home rule cities (S. L. 1977, Ch. 506). Two new sections of the Century Code concerned confidentiality of tax information obtained from the US Secretary of the Treasury and North Dakota estate and income tax returns and to confidentiality exceptions (S. L. 1977, Ch. 507). 

1981       Legislation changed the discount percentage allowance given on purchases of tobacco stamps and fees by county auditors on tax meter settings for tobacco products. Tax exemptions were allowed for mixed drinks (S. L. 1981, Ch. 582).   
               
1983       Changes to the Century Code related to the collection of delinquent sales, use, income, and business and corporation privilege taxes for taxpayers not residing in North Dakota (S. L. 1983, Ch. 590).

1985       Legislation concerned changes to tax collection agreements and home rule cities (S. L. 1985, Ch. 598).
 
1987       The Tax Commissioner was removed from no-party ballot (S. L. 1987, Ch. 253).
                                                                               
1989       The Legislature appropriated for the biennium of July 1989 to June 1991 the Homestead Tax Credit reimbursement allowing for grants, benefits, and claims (S. L. 1989, Ch. 16).

1991       Three new sections were added to the Century Code [NDCC 57-38] relating to various tax matters including the extension of the time allowed for the Tax Commissioner to make an assessment after a subpoena was issued, the failure of the taxpayer to complete an income tax return, or failure to supply information on the federal income tax return. Other sections were amended relating to the failure to complete returns or supply information, failure to file a sale tax return, protesting of a sales tax assessment, an extension of the time needed to perform a sales tax audit, payment of sales tax refunds, assessment of additional oil and gas production tax, and claims for credits or refunds (S. L. 1991, Ch. 648).

1993       Legislation related to penalties for non-payment of taxes and the authority of the Tax Commissioner (S. L. 1993, Ch. 541).

1995       Language changes were made regarding the powers and duties of the Tax Commissioner (S. L. 1995, Ch. 350).  Changes were also made as to the authority of the Tax Commissioner to reduce tax liability based on a federal offer and compromise (S. L. 1995, Ch. 544).  

1997       Changes to the Century Code concerned the responsibilities of the State Supervisor of Assessments and also on the role of the Tax Commissioner (S. L. 1997, Ch. 461). Legislative action regarded the use of electronic funds transfer for the payment of taxes (S.L. 1997, Ch. 472). Other legislation involved an addition to the Century Code that included the collection of delinquent motor vehicle fuels, special fuels, importer for use, aviation fuel, and motor vehicle excise taxes from nonresident taxpayers (S. L. 1997, Ch. 473).

2000       Voters in a June 13, 2000 primary election approved a measure changing the Constitution to require one-half of the elected officials to be on a ballot each election year. To begin the process the Secretary of State, Agriculture Commissioner, Attorney General, and the Tax Commissioner were elected for a two-year term starting in 2004. Thereafter the elected officers returned to the cycle of four-year terms. (S. L. 2001, Chapter 591).
                                                                               
2001       Beer and liquor tax collection was transferred from the State Treasurer to the Tax Commissioner (S. L. 2001, Ch. 84). A new section was added to the Century Code regarding the disclosure of name and address information by the Tax Commissioner (S. L. 2001, Ch. 505).

2003       Legislation related to tax collection agreements with home rule cities or counties [NDCC 57-01-02.1] and the limitations on city or county authority S. L. 2003, Ch. 539).
                               
2005       The new subsection to [NDCC 57-01-02] related to the participation of the Tax Commissioner in the federal treasury offset program (S. L. 2005, Ch. 542).  Legislation concerned refunds or credit of taxes based on a claim of federal or state unconstitutionality (S. L. 2005, Ch. 543).

SERIES

30490  Sales Tax Division Statistical Reports (microfilm).
30491  Gasoline and Diesel Tax Collection Ledger.
30492  Gasoline License Record.
30493  Utility Property Assessment Record.
30494  County and City Budgets.   
31947 Tax Department. Beer and Liquor License List.           
32023 Tax Commissioner, Heidi Heitkamp Speeches.
32275 Estate Tax Record.
32278 Tax Commissioner, Byron Dorgan, Commissioner Records.
32309 Audio Visual Collection.
32310 County School Building Map Book.
32311 Township Map.
32319 Coal Conversion Facilities Tax Reports and Coal Severance Tax Reports.

SOURCES

Gray, David P.  Guide to the North Dakota State Archives, 1985.
Laws of Dakota Territory.
Legislative History of North Dakota State Agencies: Richard J. Wolfert State Librarian. State Library.
North Dakota Century Code.
North Dakota Office of the State Tax Commissioner Website.
North Dakota Secretary of State Blue Book.
North Dakota State Legislature Session Laws.

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