Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) causes the majority of human Merkel cell carcinomas (MCC), a rare but highly aggressive form of skin cancer. We recently reported that constitutive expression of MCC tumor-derived MCPyV tumor (T) antigens in the skin of transgenic mice leads to hyperplasia, increased proliferation, and spontaneous epithelial tumor development. We sought to evaluate how the MCPyV T antigens contribute to tumor formation in vivo using a classical, multi-stage model for squamous cell carcinoma development. In this model, two chemical carcinogens, DMBA and TPA, contribute to two distinct phases of carcinogenesis-initiation and promotion, respectively-that are required for tumors to develop. By treating the MCPyV transgenic mice with each chemical carcinogen, we determined how the viral oncogenes contributed to carcinogenesis. We observed that the MCPyV T antigens synergized with the tumor initiator DMBA, but not with the tumor promoter TPA, cause tumors. Therefore, the MCPyV tumor antigens function primarily as tumor promoters, similar to that seen with human papillomavirus (HPV) oncoproteins. These studies provide insight into the role of MCPyV T antigen expression in tumor formation in vivo and contribute to our understanding of how MCPyV may function as a human DNA tumor virus.