January 3, 2018
To: Statutory Assessors, Public Assessors and Telco Companies
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) Manufacturing & Utility Bureau recently reviewed our telecommunication tax statutes and policies and determined "tower companies" do not fit the Wisconsin Statute's definition of a "telephone company."
Sec. 76.80 (1), Wis. Stats. states:
(3) "Telecommunications services" means the transmission of voice, video, facsimile or data messages, including telegraph messages, except that "telecommunications services" does not include video service, as defined in s. 66.0420 (2) (y), radio, one-way radio paging or transmitting messages incidental to transient occupancy in hotels, as defined in s. 254.61 (3).
(4) "Telephone company" means any person that provides to another person telecommunications services, including the resale of services provided by another telephone company. "Telephone company" does not include a person who operates a private shared telecommunications system, as defined in s. 196.201 (1), and who is not otherwise a telephone company.
What is a tower company?
DOR defines a "tower company" as a company that owns towers or other structures on which communications equipment is attached. The tower structure itself does not transmit voice, video or data, and is solely a structure where transmission devices are attached. The "tower company" also does not operate the attached transmission equipment.
Therefore, a "tower company" does not provide a "telecommunications service" as provided in the above statute reference.
Who assesses a tower company?
Local assessors – starting on January 1, 2018, the assessor in the taxing jurisdiction where the property is located, will assess the towers and equipment of a "tower company." Assessors must use the guidelines and methods provided in the Wisconsin Property Assessment Manual (WPAM).
DOR – will continue to assess towers and/or other structures owned by companies meeting the definition of a "telephone company." We will post to our website a
list of tower companies previously assessed by DOR that local assessors are now responsible for, along with the traditional list of state assessed telephone companies.
If you have questions, contact us at