United States Department of the Treasury

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United States Department of the Treasury
Seal of the United States Department of the Treasury.svg
Flag of the United States Department of the Treasury.png
U.S. Treasury Department Building, Washington, D.C LCCN2011635063.tif
Treasury Building
Agency overview
FormedSeptember 2, 1789;234 years ago (1789-09-02)
Preceding agency
  • Board of Treasury
Type Executive department
Jurisdiction U.S. federal government
Headquarters Treasury Building
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C., U.S
38°53′51.2″N77°2′3.4″W / 38.897556°N 77.034278°W / 38.897556; -77.034278
Employees87,336 (2019)
Annual budget$20 billion (2019) [1]
Agency executives
Child agencies
Website treasury.gov

The Department of the Treasury (USDT) [2] is the national treasury and finance department of the federal government of the United States, where it serves as an executive department. [3] The department oversees the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the U.S. Mint. These two agencies are responsible for printing all paper currency and minting coins, while the treasury executes currency circulation in the domestic fiscal system. The USDT collects all federal taxes through the Internal Revenue Service; manages U.S. government debt instruments; licenses and supervises banks and thrift institutions; and advises the legislative and executive branches on matters of fiscal policy. The department is administered by the secretary of the treasury, who is a member of the Cabinet. The treasurer of the United States has limited statutory duties, but advises the Secretary on various matters such as coinage and currency production. [4] Signatures of both officials appear on all Federal Reserve notes. [5]


The department was established by an Act of Congress in 1789 to manage government revenue. [6] The first secretary of the treasury was Alexander Hamilton, who was sworn into office on September 11, 1789. [7] Hamilton was appointed by President George Washington on the recommendation of Robert Morris, Washington's first choice for the position, who had declined the appointment. [8] Hamilton established the nation's early financial system and for several years was a major presence in Washington's administration. [9] The department is customarily referred to as "Treasury", solely, without any preceding article, as a remnant of the country's transition from British to American English during the late 18th century. Hamilton's portrait appears on the obverse of the ten-dollar bill, while the Treasury Department building is depicted on the reverse. [10]


Revolutionary period

The history of the Department of the Treasury began in the turmoil of the American Revolution, when the Continental Congress at Philadelphia deliberated the crucial issue of financing a war of independence against Great Britain. The Congress had no power to levy and collect taxes, nor was there a tangible basis for securing funds from foreign investors or governments. The delegates resolved to issue paper money in the form of bills of credit, promising redemption in coin on faith in the revolutionary cause. On June 22, 1775, only a few days after the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Continental Congress issued $2 million in bills; on July 25, 28 citizens of Philadelphia were employed by Congress to sign and number the currency.

On July 29, 1775, the Second Continental Congress assigned the responsibility for the administration of the revolutionary government's finances to joint Continental treasurers George Clymer and Michael Hillegas. Congress stipulated that each of the colonies contribute to the Continental government's funds. To ensure proper and efficient handling of the growing national debt in the face of weak economic and political ties between the colonies, the Congress, on February 17, 1776, designated a committee of five to superintend the treasury, settle accounts, and report periodically to the Congress. On April 1, a Treasury Office of Accounts, consisting of an auditor general and clerks, was established to facilitate the settlement of claims and to keep the public accounts for the government of the United Colonies. With the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, the newborn republic as a sovereign nation was able to secure loans from abroad. [11]

Despite the infusion of foreign and domestic loans, the united colonies were unable to establish a well-organized agency for financial administration. Michael Hillegas was first called Treasurer of the United States on May 14, 1777. The Treasury Office was reorganized three times between 1778 and 1781. The $241.5 million in paper Continental bills devalued rapidly. By May 1781, the dollar collapsed at a rate of from 500 to 1000 to 1 against hard currency. Protests against the worthless money swept the colonies, giving rise to the expression "not worth a Continental". The office has, since the late 18th century, been customarily referred to as the singular "Treasury", without any preceding article, as a remnant of the country's transition from British to American English. [12] [13] For example, the department notes its guiding purpose as "Treasury's mission" instead of "the Treasury's mission." [14]

Robert Morris was designated Superintendent of Finance in 1781 and restored stability to the nation's finances. Morris, a wealthy colonial merchant, was nicknamed "the financier" because of his reputation for procuring funds or goods on a moment's notice. His staff included a comptroller, a treasurer, a register, and auditors, who managed the country's finances through 1784, when Morris resigned because of ill health. The treasury board, consisting of three commissioners, continued to oversee the finances of the confederation of former colonies until September 1789.

Creation of the Treasury

Original seal, dating from before 1968 Seal of the United States Department of the Treasury (1789-1968).png
Original seal, dating from before 1968

The First United States Congress convened in New York City on March 4, 1789, marking the beginning of government under the U.S. Constitution. On September 2, 1789, Congress created a permanent institution for the management of government finances:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there shall be a Department of Treasury, in which shall be the following officers, namely: a Secretary of the Treasury, to be deemed head of the department; a Comptroller, an Auditor, a Treasurer, a Register, and an Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury, which assistant shall be appointed by the said Secretary. [6] [15]

Alexander Hamilton took the oath of office as the first secretary of the treasury on September 11, 1789. Hamilton had served as George Washington's aide-de-camp during the American Revolutionary War and was influential in the ratification of the Constitution. Hamilton's financial and managerial acumen made him a logical choice for addressing the problem of the new nation's heavy war debt. His first official act as secretary was to submit a report to Congress in which he laid the foundation for the nation's financial health.

To the surprise of many legislators, he insisted upon federal assumption and dollar-for-dollar repayment of the country's $75 million debt in order to revitalize the public credit: "[T]he debt of the United States was the price of liberty. The faith of America has been repeatedly pledged for it, and with solemnities that give peculiar force to the obligation." [16] Hamilton foresaw the development of industry and trade in the United States, suggesting that government revenues be based upon customs duties. [16] His sound financial policies also inspired investment in the Bank of the United States, which acted as the government's fiscal agent.[ citation needed ]

The Department of Treasury believes their seal was created by Francis Hopkinson, the treasurer of loans. He submitted bills to Congress in 1780 that authorized the design of department seals, including the seal for the Board of Treasury. While it is it not certain that Hopkinson designed the seal, it is very similar to others he has done. [17]

2003 reorganization

The Treasury Building at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW in Washington, D.C. Treasury departement.jpg
The Treasury Building at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Congress transferred several agencies that had previously been under the aegis of the Treasury Department to other departments as a consequence of the September 11 attacks. Effective January 24, 2003, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), which had been a bureau of the department since 1972, was extensively reorganized under the provisions of the Homeland Security Act of 2002. The law enforcement functions of ATF, including the regulation of legitimate traffic in firearms and explosives, were transferred to the Department of Justice as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE). [18] The regulatory and tax collection functions of ATF related to legitimate traffic in alcohol and tobacco remained with the treasury at its new Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). [19]

Effective March 1, 2003, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the United States Customs Service, and the United States Secret Service were transferred to the newly created Department of Homeland Security ("DHS"). [20]

2020 data breach

In 2020, the Treasury suffered a data breach following a cyberattack likely conducted by a nation state adversary, possibly Russia. [21] [22] This was in fact the first detected case of the much wider 2020 United States federal government data breach, which involved at least eight federal departments.[ citation needed ]


A Treasury Department official surrounded by packages of newly minted currency, counting and wrapping dollar bills in Washington, D.C. in 1907 Treasury department official 1907.jpg
A Treasury Department official surrounded by packages of newly minted currency, counting and wrapping dollar bills in Washington, D.C. in 1907
The organizational structure of the U.S. Department of the Treasury Organization of US Dept of the Treasury.jpg
The organizational structure of the U.S. Department of the Treasury
The Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Treasury Library, and the main branch of the Treasury Department Federal Credit Union in the Freedman's Bank Building in Washington, D.C. Treasury Annex.JPG
The Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Treasury Library, and the main branch of the Treasury Department Federal Credit Union in the Freedman's Bank Building in Washington, D.C.

Basic functions

The basic functions of the Department of the Treasury mainly include: [23]

With respect to the estimation of revenues for the executive branch, Treasury serves a purpose parallel to that of the Office of Management and Budget for the estimation of spending for the executive branch, the Joint Committee on Taxation for the estimation of revenues for Congress, and the Congressional Budget Office for the estimation of spending for Congress.

From 1830 until 1901, responsibility for overseeing weights and measures was carried out by the Office of Standard Weights and Measures under the auspices of the Treasury Department. [24] After 1901, that responsibility was assigned to the agency that subsequently became known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology.


The Department of the Treasury is organized into two major components: the departmental offices and the operating bureaus. The departmental offices are primarily responsible for the formulation of policy and management of the department as a whole, while the operating bureaus carry out the specific operations assigned to the department.


Seal on United States Department of the Treasury on the Building Seal on United States Department of the Treasury on the Building.JPG
Seal on United States Department of the Treasury on the Building


The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is responsible for enforcing and administering laws covering the production, use, and distribution of alcohol and tobacco products. TTB also collects excise taxes for firearms and ammunition.
The Bureau of Engraving & Printing (BEP)The Bureau of Engraving & Printing (BEP) designs and manufactures U.S. currency, securities, and other official certificates and awards.
The Bureau of the Fiscal Service The Bureau of the Fiscal Service was formed from the consolidation of the Financial Management Service and the Bureau of the Public Debt. Its mission is to promote the financial integrity and operational efficiency of the U.S. government through exceptional accounting, financing, collections, payments, and shared services.
The Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) FundThe Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund was created to expand the availability of credit, investment capital, and financial services in distressed urban and rural communities.
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN)The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) supports law enforcement investigative efforts and fosters interagency and global cooperation against domestic and international financial crimes. It also provides U.S. policymakers with strategic analyses of domestic and worldwide trends and patterns.
The Inspector GeneralThe Inspector General conducts independent audits, investigations and reviews to help the Treasury Department accomplish its mission; improve its programs and operations; promote economy, efficiency and effectiveness; and prevent and detect fraud and abuse.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) provides leadership and coordination and recommends policy for activities designed to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the administration of the internal revenue laws. TIGTA also recommends policies to prevent and detect fraud and abuse in the programs and operations of the IRS and related entities.
The Internal Revenue Service The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the largest of Treasury's bureaus. It is responsible for determining, assessing, and collecting internal revenue in the United States.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) charters, regulates, and supervises national banks to ensure a safe, sound, and competitive banking system that supports the citizens, communities, and economy of the United States.
The U.S. Mint The U.S. Mint designs and manufactures domestic, bullion and foreign coins as well as commemorative medals and other numismatic items. The Mint also distributes U.S. coins to the Federal Reserve banks as well as maintains physical custody and protection of the nation's silver and gold assets.

Budget and staffing

The Treasury Department has authorized a budget for Fiscal Year 2015 of $22.6 billion. The budget authorization is broken down as follows: [32]

ProgramFunding (in millions)Employees (in FTEs)
Management and Finance
Department Administration$3111,320
Office of the Inspector General$35213
Inspector General for Tax Administration$157837
Special Inspector General for TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program)$34192
Community Development Financial Institutions Fund$22573
Financial Crimes Enforcement Network$108346
Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau$101517
Bureau of the Fiscal Services$3482,350
Tax Administration
Internal Revenue Service$12,47692,009
International Programs
International Programs$2,6100
Non-Appropriated Bureaus
Office of Fiscal Stability$18486
Small Business Lending Programs$1725
State Small Business Credit Initiative$712
Financial Stability Oversight Council$2026
Office of Financial Research$92249
Bureau of Engraving and Printing$7491,944
United States Mint$3,5711,874
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency$1,1043,997

Freedom of Information Act processing performance

In the latest Center for Effective Government analysis of the fifteen federal agencies that receive the most Freedom of Information Act FOIA requests, published in 2015 (using 2012 and 2013 data, the most recent years available), the treasury failed to earn a satisfactory overall grade. [33]

See also

Notes and references

  1. "Department of Treasury – List of Federal Departments". federalpay.org.
  2. Donald A. Torres (1985). Handbook of Federal Police and Investigative Agencies. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 275. ISBN   0313245789.
  3. "An Act to Establish the Treasury Department". September 2, 1789. Retrieved October 11, 2018.
  4. "The Treasurer". U.S. Department of the Treasury. Retrieved May 6, 2018.
  5. Crutsinger, Martin (November 15, 2017). "New money: Mnuchin and Carranza signatures now on the dollar bill". USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, LLC. The Associated Press. Retrieved May 6, 2018.
  6. 1 2 "Image 1 of An act to establish the Treasury department .... [Dated] 1789, July 2. New-York. Printed by Thomas Greenleaf.]". The Library of Congress. January 1, 1970. Retrieved December 1, 2022.
  7. "Appointment as Secretary of the Treasury". founders.archives.gov.
  8. Adams, Jonathan. "Department of the Treasury". George Washington Digital Encyclopedia. Mount Vernon Ladies' Association. Retrieved May 6, 2018.
  9. Scanlan, Laura Wolff (2006). "Alexander Hamilton: the man who modernized money". Humanities: The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities. 27 (1). Retrieved May 6, 2018.
  10. "$10". U.S. Currency Education Program. Retrieved May 6, 2018.
  11. Hammond, Bray (1957). Banks and Politics in America: From the Revolution to the Civil War. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  12. Hamilton, Alexander (1851). Reports of the secretary of the Treasury of the United States: prepared in obedience to the act of May 10, 1800. Printed by Blair & Rives.
  13. Dewey, Davis Rich (1922). Financial History of the United States. Longmans, Green and Company.
  14. "Role of the Treasury | U.S. Department of the Treasury". home.treasury.gov. Retrieved April 27, 2020. Treasury's mission highlights its role as the steward of U.S. economic and financial systems, and as an influential participant in the world economy.
  15. "Chapter 12, 1 Statue. 65" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 19, 2017.
  16. 1 2 Syrett, Harold C., ed. (1962). The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 6. New York City: Columbia University Press. ISBN   978-0231089050 . Retrieved May 6, 2018.
  17. Friedberg, Albert L. (2017). Paper money of the US 21st Edition. Clifton, New Jersey: Coin & Currency Institute. pp. 6–7. ISBN   9780871840219.
  18. "Move to Justice Dept. Brings ATF New Focus". Washington Post. January 23, 2003. Archived from the original on March 11, 2023. Retrieved March 11, 2023.
  19. "History". TTBGov. November 18, 2015. Archived from the original on March 11, 2023. Retrieved March 11, 2023.
  20. "Who Joined DHS". Department of Homeland Security. July 27, 2012. Archived from the original on March 11, 2023. Retrieved March 10, 2023.
  21. Nakashima, Ellen (December 13, 2020). "Russian government spies are behind a broad hacking campaign that has breached U.S. agencies and a top cyber firm". The Washington Post . Archived from the original on December 13, 2020. Retrieved December 14, 2020.
  22. Bing, Christopher (December 14, 2020). "Suspected Russian hackers spied on U.S. Treasury emails – sources". Reuters .
  23. US Treasury website Organization
  24. Records of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), National Archives website, (Record Group 167), 1830–1987.
  25. Treasury Order 101-05, U.S. Dept. of the Treasury. January 10, 2011. Updated April 26, 2011. Accessed November 11, 2012.
  26. DF Org Chart, "The Office of Domestic Finance". U.S. Dept. of the Treasury. October 2011. Accessed November 11, 2012.
  27. International Affairs, "About International Affairs". U.S. Dept. of the Treasury. February 14, 2012. Accessed November 11, 2012.
  28. "Officials | U.S. Department of the Treasury". home.treasury.gov.
  29. "Environment and Energy". www.treasury.gov. Retrieved October 30, 2017.
  30. Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, "About Terrorism and Financial Intelligence". U.S. Dept. of the Treasury. July 2, 2012. Accessed November 11, 2012.
  31. "Treasury Announces Coordinated Climate Policy Strategy with New Treasury Climate Hub and Climate Counselor | U.S. Department of the Treasury". home.treasury.gov.
  32. 2015 Department of the Treasury Budget in Brief, pg 9, United States Department of the Treasury, Accessed July 6, 2015
  33. Making the Grade: Access to Information Scorecard 2015 , March 2015, 80 pages, Center for Effective Government, retrieved March 21, 2016

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