United States v. Williams, 514 U.S. 527, 2 (1995)

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528

UNITED STATES v. WILLIAMS

Syllabus

the Government surely subjected Williams to a tax, even though she was not the assessed party. Colorado Nat. Bank of Denver v. Bedford, 310 U. S. 41, 52, distinguished. Pp. 532-536. (c) The Government's strained reading of 1346(a)(1) would leave people in Williams' position without a remedy. This consequence reinforces the conclusion that Congress did not intend refund actions under 1346(a)(1) to be unavailable to persons situated as Williams is. Though the Government points to the levy, quiet title, and separate-fund remedies authorized by 26 U. S. C. 7426, 28 U. S. C. 2410(a)(12), and 26 U. S. C. 6325(b)(3), respectively, none of those realistically would be available to Williams or others in her situation. Moreover, because those remedies offer predeprivation relief, they do not become super-fluous if some third-party suits are authorized by 1346(a)(1), a post-deprivation remedy available only if the taxpayer has paid the Government in full. Pp. 536-538. (d) The principle on which the Government relies, that parties generally may not challenge the tax liabilities of others, is not unyielding. See, e. g., Stahmann v. Vidal, 305 U. S. 61. The burden on that principle is mitigated here because Williams' main challenge is to the existence of a lien against her property, rather than to the underlying assessment on her husband. Moreover, the Government's forecast that allowing her to sue will lead to rampant abuse by parties volunteering to pay others' taxes seems implausible. In any event, the disposition herein does not address the circumstances, if any, under which a party who volunteers to pay a tax assessed against someone else may seek a refund under 1346(a). Pp. 538-540.

24 F. 3d 1143, affirmed.

Ginsburg, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Stevens, O'Connor, Scalia, Souter, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Scalia, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 541. Rehnquist, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Kennedy and Thomas, JJ., joined, post, p. 541.

Kent L. Jones argued the cause for the United States. With him on the briefs were Solicitor General Days, Assistant Attorney General Argrett, Deputy Solicitor General Wallace, William S. Estabrook, and Kevin M. Brown.

Philip Garrett Panitz argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief was Gregory Ross Gose.

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