Treasury Department

views updated May 23 2018


The U.S. Department of the Treasury performs four basic functions: formulating and recommending economic, financial, tax, and fiscal policies; serving as financial agent for the U.S. government; enforcing the law; and manufacturing coins and currency. The Treasury Department was created by an act of September 2, 1789 (31 U.S.C.A. § 301). Many subsequent acts have affected the development of the department and created its numerous bureaus and divisions. On March 1, 2003, the newly-created homeland security department took control of several treasury divisions: the U.S. Customs Service, the secret service, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

Secretary of the Treasury

As a major policy adviser to the president, the secretary of the treasury has primary responsibility for formulating and recommending domestic and international financial, economic, and tax policy, participating in the formulation of broad fiscal policies that have general significance for the economy, and managing the public debt. The secretary also oversees the activities of the department in carrying out its major law enforcement responsibility, serving as the financial agent for the U.S. government, and manufacturing coins, currency, and other products for customer agencies.

In addition, the secretary has many responsibilities as chief financial officer of the government. The secretary serves as chair pro tempore of the Economic Policy Council and as U.S. governor of the international monetary fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the African Development Bank. The Office of the Secretary includes the offices of deputy secretary, general counsel, inspector general, the under secretaries, the assistant secretaries, and treasurer.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms was established by Treasury Department Order No. 221, effective July 1, 1972. The order transferred the functions, powers, and duties arising under laws relating to alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and explosives from the internal revenue service to the bureau. On December 5, 1978, Treasury Department Order No. 120-1 assigned to the bureau responsibility for enforcing chapter 114 of title 18 of the United States Code (18 U.S.C.A. § 2341 et seq.) relating to interstate trafficking in contraband cigarettes. The Anti-Arson Act of 1982, 96 Stat. 1319, gave the bureau the additional responsibility of addressing commercial arson nationwide.

The bureau is responsible for enforcing and administering firearms and explosives laws, as well as laws covering the production, taxation, and distribution of alcohol and tobacco products. The bureau performs two basic functions: criminal enforcement and regulatory enforcement.

The criminal enforcement branch of the bureau seeks to stop illegal trafficking, possession, and use of firearms, destructive devices, and explosives and also tries to suppress trafficking in illicit distilled spirits and contraband cigarettes. The objectives of the regulatory enforcement branch of the bureau include determining and ensuring the full collection of revenue due from legal alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and ammunition manufacturing industries; fulfilling the bureau's responsibility to ensure product integrity and provide health warning statements; and preventing commercial bribery, consumer deception, and other improper trade practices in the alcohol beverage industry.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is now part of the Department of Justice.

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) was created on February 25, 1863 (12 Stat. 665), as a bureau of the Treasury Department. Its primary mission is to regulate national banks. The OCC is headed by the

comptroller, who is appointed for a five-year term by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate. By statute, the comptroller also serves a concurrent term as director of the federal deposit insurance corporation.

The OCC supervises approximately 3,300 national banks, including their trust activities and overseas operations. The OCC has the power to examine banks; approve or deny applications for new bank charters, branches, or mergers; take

enforcement action—such as bank closures—against banks that are not in compliance with laws and regulations; and issue rules, regulations, and interpretations related to banking practices. Each bank is examined annually through a nationwide staff of approximately 2,400 bank examiners supervised by six district offices. The OCC is independently funded through assessments on the assets of national banks.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing operates on basic authorities conferred by an act of July 11, 1862 (31 U.S.C.A. § 303), and additional authorities contained in past appropriations made to the bureau that are still in force. A working capital fund was established in accordance with the provisions of section 2 of the act of August 4, 1950, as amended (31 U.S.C.A. § 5142), which placed the bureau on a completely reimbursable basis. The bureau is headed by a director, who is appointed by the secretary of the treasury and reports to the treasurer of the United States.

At the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the artistry of the engraver is combined with the most technologically advanced printing equipment to produce U.S. securities. The bureau designs, prints, and finishes all U.S. paper currency (federal reserve notes), as well as U.S. postage stamps, treasury securities, certificates, and other security products, including White House invitations and military identification cards. It is also responsible for advising and assisting federal agencies in the design and production of other government documents that, because of their innate value or for other reasons, require security or counterfeit-deterrence characteristics.

The bureau has its headquarters in Washington, D.C., and operates a second currency manufacturing plant in Fort Worth, Texas.

Financial Management Service

The mission of the Financial Management Service (FMS) is to improve the quality of government financial management. The service is committed to helping its government customers achieve success. The FMS serves taxpayers, the Treasury Department, federal program agencies, and government policymakers by linking program and financial management objectives and by providing financial services, information, and advice to its customers.

The FMS is responsible for programs to improve cash management, credit management, debt collection, and financial management systems throughout the government. For cash management, the service issues guidelines and regulations and assists other agencies in managing financial transactions to maximize investment earnings and reduce the interest costs of borrowed funds. For credit management, the service issues guidelines and regulations and helps program agencies manage credit activities, including loan programs, so as to improve all parts of the credit cycle, such as credit extension, loan servicing, debt collection, and write-off procedures. The service works with other agencies to take advantage of new automation technology and improve financial management systems and government handling of payments, collections, and receivables.

The service issues approximately 426 million treasury checks and close to 407 million electronic fund transfer payments annually for federal salaries and wages, payments to suppliers of goods and services to the federal government, income tax refunds, and payments under major government programs such as social security and veterans' benefits. The FMS also supervises the collection of government receipts and operates and maintains the systems for collecting these receipts. The service works with all federal agencies to improve the availability of collected funds and the reporting of collection information to the treasury.

Internal Revenue Service

The Office of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue was established by an act of July 1, 1862 (26 U.S.C.A. § 7802). The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is responsible for administering and enforcing the internal revenue laws and related statutes, except those relating to alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and explosives. Its mission is to collect the proper amount of tax revenue at the least cost to the public and in a manner that warrants the highest degree of public confidence in the service's integrity, efficiency, and fairness.

To achieve that purpose, the IRS seeks to achieve the highest possible degree of voluntary compliance with the tax laws and regulations. It advises the members of the public of their rights and responsibilities, determines the extent of compliance and the causes of noncompliance, administers and enforces the tax laws, and seeks more efficient ways of accomplishing its mission.

The IRS determines, assesses, and collects internal revenue taxes, determines pension plan qualifications and exempt organization status, and prepares and issues rulings and regulations to supplement the provisions of the internal revenue code.

The sources of most revenues collected are individual income tax, social insurance, and retirement taxes. Other major sources include the corporation income, excise, estate, and gift taxes.

U.S. Mint

The establishment of a mint was authorized by an act of April 2, 1792 (1 Stat. 246). The Bureau of the Mint was established by an act of February 12, 1873 (17 Stat. 424) and recodified on September 13, 1982 (31 U.S.C.A. §§ 304, 5131). The name was changed to the U.S. Mint by secretarial order dated January 9, 1984.

The primary mission of the mint is to produce an adequate volume of circulating coinage for the United States to conduct its trade and commerce. The mint also produces and sells numismatic coins, American eagle gold and silver bullion coins, and national medals. In addition, the Fort Knox Bullion Depository is the primary storage facility for the nation's gold bullion.

Bureau of the Public Debt

The Bureau of the Public Debt was established on June 30, 1940, pursuant to the Reorganization Act of 1939 (31 U.S.C.A. § 306). Its mission is to borrow the money needed to operate the federal government, account for the resulting public debt, and issue treasury securities to refund maturing debt and raise new money.

The bureau fulfills its mission through six programs: commercial book-entry securities, direct access securities, savings securities, government securities, market regulation, and public debt accounting. The bureau issues and auctions treasury bills, notes, and bonds and manages the U.S. Savings Bond Program.

In addition, the bureau implements the regulations for the government securities market. These regulations provide for investor protection while maintaining a fair and liquid market for government securities.

Office of Thrift Supervision

The office of thrift supervision (OTS) was established as a bureau of the Treasury Department in August 1989 and became operational in October 1989 as part of a major reorganization of the thrift regulatory structure mandated by the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (103 Stat. 183). In that act, Congress gave the OTS authority to charter federal thrift institutions and serve as the primary regulator of approximately 1,700 federal and state-chartered thrifts belonging to the Savings Association Insurance Fund.

The office's mission is to regulate savings associations in order to maintain the safety, soundness, and viability of the industry and to support the industry's efforts to meet housing and other financial services needs. The OTS carries out this responsibility through risk-focused supervision that includes adopting regulations governing the savings and loan industry, examining and supervising thrift institutions and their affiliates, and enforcing compliance with federal laws and regulations. In addition to overseeing thrift institutions, the OTS also regulates, examines, and supervises holding companies that own thrifts and controls the acquisition of thrifts by such holding companies.

The office is headed by a director appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate to serve a five-year term. The director also serves on the boards of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation.

further readings

Garten, Helen A. 2001. U.S. Financial Regulation and the Level Playing Field. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kaufman, Judith C., ed. 2003. United States Department of the Treasury: Current Issues and Background. New York: Nova Science.

Sargent, Thomas J., and Francois R. Velde. 2002. The Big Problem of Small Change. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press.

Treasury Department. Available online at <> (accessed August 14, 2003).


Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Bureau of; Banks and Banking; Drugs and Narcotics; Estate and Gift Taxes; Federal Budget; Homeland Security Department; Savings and Loan Association; Smuggling; Tariff; Taxation.

Treasury Department, United States

views updated May 23 2018

Treasury Department, United States


The United States Department of the Treasury, the second-oldest department in the U.S. Government, was established by an Act of Congress on 2 September 1789 (I Stat. 65; 31 U.S.C. 1001). It advises Congress and the president on tax policy, acts as financial agent for the federal government, manufactures currency, and enforces tax laws. According to its establishment legislation, the Treasury Department is to "formulate, recommend, and administer domestic and international financial, economic, and tax policies, and manage the public debt." The Department serves as the principal financial agent for the United States government, manufactures coins and currency, and oversees the administration of the U.S. Customs Service (1789), U.S. Mint (1792), Internal Revenue Service (1862), Bureau of Engraving and Printing (1862), Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (1863), Secret Service (1865), Bureau of the Public Debt (1919), Financial Management Service (1920), Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (1970), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (1972), and Office of Thrift Supervision (1989).

Background. The Treasury Department was already in existence in some form during the War of American Independence. On June 22, 1775, the Second Continental Congress approved the printing of $2 million in bills of credit to finance the War of American Independence. Between 1775 and 1779, more than $241 million Continentals were issued. The value of this first national paper money fell so low it engendered the expression "not worth a Continental." A month later, July 29, 1775, the Continental Congress appointed joint treasurers (Michael Hillegas and George Clymer). That November, a committee was established by the Continental Congress to examine the money in the Treasury and to estimate the public debt. The committee was one of several established by the Congress to handle different phases of the revolutionary finances. In February 1776, a standing committee of five was appointed to superintend the Treasury. The committee was referred to by various names, including Board of Treasury and Treasury Office of Accounts.

On July 31, 1789, the collection of customs revenue was established when the Tariff Act became effective. A Bureau of Customs, later the U.S. Customs Service, was created by an act of March 3, 1927 (44 Stat. 1381); 19 U.S.C. 2071). A postal service was established by Congress on September 22, 1789.

With the establishment of the Treasury Department, the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, maneuvered to give the emerging United States a strong financial basis and to provide the stability needed for economic development. Hamilton worked to fund the national debt, assume the state debts, create a national bank, pass a whiskey tax, enact high tariffs, and establish American industry on a sound financial footing. He was aided by legislation (April 2, 1792) that established a national mint and regulated coinage and an act (May 8, 1792; revised Act of March 3, 1809, chap. 28) that organized the Department of the Treasury into two major components: the Departmental offices, primarily responsible for the formulation of policy and management of the Department as a whole, and the operating bureaus, which carry out the specific operations assigned to the Department. Today, the bureaus make up 98% of the Treasury work force.

Key developments. Congress approved legislation (June 23,1836) that required the Secretary of the Treasury to designate at least one bank in each state and territory for the

deposit of government funds. Six years later, on Independence Day, sub-treasuries for deposit of federal funds were authorized in major cities but the legislation was repealed the next year (1841).

The Civil War (18611865) was the first modern war demanding enormous capital. The cost, after four years, was $2.3 billion to the U.S. government and $1 billion to the Confederacy. Less than one-fifth of the North's cost was paid for in taxes; four-fifths was financed by borrowing and the issue of unredeemable paper currency. To remedy this, and to set up future reserves, the Revenue Act (12 Stat. 432; 26 U.S.C. 3900; July 1, 1862) established a permanent tax collection agency, Commissioner of Internal Revenue, although internal taxes were levied by Congress and collected by the Treasury Department from 1791 to 1802 and 1813 to 1817. To administer the national banks, the Office of the Comptroller of the currency was created by legislation (12 Stat. 665; February 25, 1863). However, a national tragedy led to the creation of one of the better-known Treasury bureaus when the U.S. Secret Service, oldest general law enforcement agency in the federal government, was established (July 5, 1865) after the Lincoln assassination. Along with its protection of presidential families, heroically documented in stage screen, and print, the Secret Service was also authorized to halt the counterfeiting of currency. It derives its authority from the act of June 23, 1860 (12 Stat. 102). Today, it still provides these services although its detection of counterfeit money and its arrest of counterfeiters continues to fall behind its rather more popular and visual image of Secret Service agents traveling with the president and other VIPs.

"Guns and Butter" diplomacy. World War I cost $32.7 billion. To finance this enormous cost, President Wilson and Treasury Secretary William G. McAdoo transformed the income tax into the foremost instrument of federal taxation, both to raise revenue and to attack concentrations of wealth, special privilege, and public corruption; and to promote a more competitive economy. The Revenue Acts (1916, 1917) [39 Stat. 756, 1000] imposed the first significant taxes on corporate profits and personal incomes and introduced a graduated federal estate tax, but rejected a mass-based income tax. An excess profits tax became the centerpiece of wartime finance.

Henry Morgenthau, President Franklin Roosevelt's Secretary of the Treasury, issued regulations in 1934 that established a reporting system for specified international capital movements. Along with the required reports on security and foreign exchange transactions and changes in bank balances between the United States and foreign countries, commercial and industrial firms reported their foreign assets and liabilities. The present Treasury International Capital reporting system, an ongoing statistical program, evolved from the 1934 data collection efforts.

World War II, the most costly in American history at $360 billion, changed the American tax system as it shifted from a narrow base to a broad base, the basis of our current tax system. Roosevelt and Morgenthau wanted to finance the war with taxes that came mostly from business and upper-income groups as nearly one-half of America's national product went to war. Along with lend-lease programs, Treasury designed and implemented Foreign Funds Control (1940) to protect in the U.S. the assets of invaded countries and to keep them from the enemy. Foreign Funds Control froze Axis assets in 1941, regulated international financial transactions, administered wartime trade restrictions (Trading with the Enemy Act), and froze $8.5 billion of assets belonging to thirty-five countries by war's end. Although liquidated in 1948, Foreign Funds Control was re-established in 1950 as Foreign Assets Control.

Production of military invasion currency was among the Treasury's most highly secret work since any knowledge of production would reveal Allied invasion plans. Treasury loaned 14,000 tons of silver to help produce uranium for the atom bomb and financed the top-secret Manhattan Project while Morgenthau and a group of Treasury attorneys persuaded Roosevelt to establish the War Refugee Board (1944), the only government effort to save European Jews.

In the post-World War II period, Treasury developed international monetary policy to aid countries devastated by the war but by the end of the Korean War, the U.S. American dominance was lessening as it began to compete for economic control with countries it originally assisted. Treasury, supported by other U.S. agencies, developed comprehensive proposals for the reform of the international monetary system after fiscal collapses in the 1960s and the 1970s. Strengthened by accords and agreements, Treasury developed further policies to resolve the international debt crises of the 1980s and the early 1990s. Since 1989, Treasury has guided U.S. participation in the Financial Services negotiations of the Uruguay Round multilateral talks under the General Agreement on Trade in Services and the World Trade Organization.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Treasury Department implemented regulations for helping financial institutions comply with the USA PATRIOT Act, a comprehensive legislative enactment addressing many facets of terrorist financing and money laundering passed by Congress after the terrorist attacks. The Department works jointly with other federal agencies to craft effective and common-sense regulations and programs that will help industry guard against future terrorist infiltration and abuse.

To date, the Treasury Department has issued a number of proposed and interim rules to help the financial services industry address specific threats to the financial system, create anti-money laundering programs that are tailored to each industry's needs, alert the appropriate authorities to large or suspicious financial transactions, and better understand their relationship with foreign banks. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Treasury continues to maintain a central position within the federal government due to its size, leadership, and important role in the economic development of the United States.



Gilbert, Abby L. "Treasury, Department of the." In: Kurian, George T., ed. A Historical Guide to the U.S. Government. New York and Oxford: Oxford University, 1998.

Katz, Bernard S., and C. Daniel Vencill, eds. Biographical Dictionary of the United States Secretaries of the Treasury, 17891995. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1996.

Walston, Mark. The Department of the Treasury. New York: Chelsea House, 1989.


U.S. Department of the Treasury Department<> (April 18, 2003).


Internal Revenue Service, United States
Secret Service, United States

Treasury, US Department of the

views updated May 23 2018

Treasury, US Department of the US federal government department. It is composed of many bureaus and divisions that have four basic functions: formulating and recommending financial, tax and fiscal policies; serving as financial agent for the government; law enforcement; and manufacturing coins and currency.

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