United States v. Williams, 514 U.S. 527, 11 (1995)

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Cite as: 514 U. S. 527 (1995)

Opinion of the Court

time to bring a quiet title action. She urgently sought to sell the property, but a sale would have been difficult before a final judgment in such litigation, which could have been protracted. In contrast, a refund suit would allow her to sell the property and simultaneously pay off the lien, leaving her free to litigate with the Government without tying up her real property, whose worth far exceeded the value of the Government's liens.

Nor may Williams and persons similarly situated rely on 6325(b)(3) for such an arrangement. This provision permits the Government to discharge a lien on property if the owner sets aside a fund that becomes subject to a new lien; the parties then can litigate the propriety of the new lien after the property is sold. However, 6325(b)(3) and its implementing regulation render this remedy doubtful indeed, for it is available only at the Government's discretion. See 6325(b)(3) ("[T]he Secretary may issue a certificate of discharge [of a federal tax lien] of any part of the property subject to the lien if such part of the property is sold and, pursuant to an agreement with the Secretary, the proceeds of such sale are to be held, as a fund subject to the liens and claims of the United States, in the same manner and with the same priority as such liens and claims had with respect to the discharged property.") (emphasis added); 26 CFR 301.6325- 1(b)(3) (1994) ("A district director [of the Internal Revenue Service] may, in his discretion, issue a certificate of discharge of any part of the property subject to a [tax lien] if such part of the property is sold and, pursuant to a written agreement with the district director, the proceeds of the sale are held, as a fund subject to the liens and claims of the United States, in the same manner and with the same priority as the lien or claim had with respect to the discharged property.") (emphasis added).

So far as the record shows, the Government did not afford Williams an opportunity to substitute a fund pursuant to

537

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