United States v. Williams, 514 U.S. 527, 6 (1995)

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Opinion of the Court

"The district courts shall have original jurisdiction, concurrent with the United States Court of Federal Claims, of:

"(1) Any civil action against the United States for the recovery of any internal-revenue tax alleged to have been erroneously or illegally assessed or collected, or any penalty claimed to have been collected without authority or any sum alleged to have been excessive or in any manner wrongfully collected under the internal-revenue laws." 28 U. S. C. 1346(a) (1988 ed. and Supp. V) (emphasis added).

Williams' plea to recover a tax "erroneously . . . collected" falls squarely within this language.

The broad language of 1346(a)(1) mirrors the broad common-law remedy the statute displaced: actions of assumpsit for money had and received, once brought against the tax collector personally rather than against the United States. See Ferguson, Jurisdictional Problems in Federal Tax Controversies, 48 Iowa L. Rev. 312, 327 (1963). Assumpsit afforded a remedy to those who, like Williams, had paid money they did not owe—typically as a result of fraud, duress, or mistake. See H. Ballantine, Shipman on Common-Law Pleading 163-164 (3d ed. 1923). Assumpsit refund actions were unavailable to volunteers, a limit that would not have barred Williams because she paid under protest. See Philadelphia v. Collector, 5 Wall. 720, 731-732 (1867) ("Where the party voluntarily pays the money, he is without remedy; but if he pays it by compulsion of law, or under protest, or with notice that he intends to bring suit to test the validity of the claim, he may recover it back . . . .").


Acknowledging the evident breadth of 1346(a)(1), the Government relies on the interaction of three other provisions to narrow the waiver of sovereign immunity. The Government argues: Under 26 U. S. C. 7422, a party may

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