Under Wisconsin Statute sections 115.31(6m) and 73.0301(2)(b), the Department of Public Instruction (“DPI”) is required to revoke a teaching license if the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (“DOR”) certifies to the DPI that an individual teaching license holder (“teacher”) is liable for delinquent taxes. The process by which this type of license revocation may occur, however, is not clearly articulated in a readily accessible manner. 

Neither the Wisconsin Statutes nor the Wisconsin Administrative Code establish the procedures that govern the process of communication between the DPI and DOR on this context. Rather, Section 73.0301, Wis. Stats. requires that the DPI and the DOR enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) governing such procedures. The MOU establishes the communication process and ultimately, the license review process.

DPI and DOR Memorandum of Understanding

This MOU between the agencies requires the DPI to provide the DOR with “an electronic file containing the names and identification numbers of current license . . . holders.” The list is to be provided twice per year. The DOR is to review the names and identification numbers on file with the DOR to the DPI database to identify licensed teachers who are also delinquent taxpayers. The DOR is required to send a letter to the individual licensees identified as delinquent and give them ten (10) days to satisfy delinquency. If the delinquency is not satisfied within the ten days, the DOR will inform the DPI that the teacher remains delinquent in their taxes at which time the DPI will revoke the teaching license. 

Once the license is revoked, the DPI will inform the DOR of this revocation and the DPI may not issue a teaching license to that individual unless the DOR issues a tax clearance certification. The MOU also specifies that all individual teacher information shared between the agencies is to only relate to tax delinquency and teaching license status. Such information is also to remain strictly confidential. 

The MOU further allows the teacher to appeal the revocation to the DOR. The DOR will hold an appeal hearing and inform the DPI of the results of the hearing. The DPI must then “affirm” the DOR’s determination to the teacher. The determination is appealable to the Dane County Circuit Court. 

Separate from the regular review process, if at any other time throughout the year the DOR discovers that a licensed teacher is liable for tax delinquency, the DOR may initiate revocation. In these cases, the DOR will notify the DPI of its intent to initiate the process to revoke a teacher’s license and will handle the matter based on the individual circumstances, as opposed to the automatic revocation following certification of tax delinquency.

Effect on Teacher’s Employment

The DPI is to notify the teacher of the license revocation, but there is no automatic process by which the employing school district is to be notified. Section 118.21(1), Wis. Stats. specifies that a teacher’s contract is void automatically when the authority to teach (i.e., the license) terminates. Accordingly, a teacher whose license is revoked based on tax delinquency, no longer has authority to teach and therefore no longer has a teaching contract. It is the teacher’s responsibility to inform the employing school district of any adverse treatment of the teacher’s licensure.

In the event the teacher is able to fulfill their tax obligations, and obtain a new teaching license, the employing District may choose to issue a new teaching contract to the teacher, but would not necessarily be obligated to do so. 

Conclusion 

The process of teacher license revocation based on tax delinquency is both automatic and subject to very tight timelines for the teacher to avoid adverse action. Ten days is a very limited amount of time to satisfy a tax delinquency and if a teacher’s license is revoked for tax delinquency that individual must satisfy any delinquent taxes before regaining a teaching license. The revocation of the license, voids the teacher’s contract and neither the license nor the contract are automatically reinstated by virtue of the teacher satisfying the tax delinquency. For this reason, it is good practice to remind teachers, particularly new teachers, of the connection between tax obligations and licensure, and to inform them of their obligation to inform the employing district of any adverse treatment of their teaching license.

For questions regarding this article, please contact your Renning, Lewis & Lacy attorney.

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