United States v. Williams, 514 U.S. 527, 12 (1995)

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538

UNITED STATES v. WILLIAMS

Opinion of the Court

6325(b)(3).9 This omission is not surprising, for on the Government's theory of who may sue under 1346(a)(1), the Government had scant incentive to agree to such an arrangement with people caught in Williams' bind. Under 6325(b)(3), the Government does not receive cash, but another lien (albeit one on a fund). In contrast, if the Government resists a 6325(b)(3) agreement, it is likely to get cash immediately: property owners eager to remove a tax lien will have to pay, as did Williams. If they may not sue under 1346(a)(1), their payment is nonrefundable. An agreement pursuant to 6325(b)(3) thus dependent on the district director's grace cannot sensibly be described as available to Williams.

We do not agree with the Government that, if 1346(a)(1) authorizes some third-party suits, the levy, quiet title, and separate-fund remedies become superfluous. Section 1346(a)(1) is a postdeprivation remedy, available only if the taxpayer has paid the Government in full. Flora v. United States, 362 U. S. 145 (1960). The other remedies offer predeprivation relief. The levy provision in 26 U. S. C. 7426(a)(1) is available "without regard to whether such property has been surrendered to or sold by the Secretary." Likewise, 28 U. S. C. 2410 allows a property owner to have a lien discharged without ever paying the tax. Under 26 U. S. C. 6325(b)(3), the lien on the property is removed in exchange for a new lien, rather than a cash payment.

V

Finally, the Government urges that allowing Williams to sue will violate the principle that parties may not challenge

9 The dissent asserts, regarding 6325(b)(3), that Williams cannot complain in court without exhausting her administrative remedy. Post, at 547-548. But 6325(b)(3) presents no question of administrative exhaustion as a prelude to judicial review, for that "remedy" lies entirely within the Government's discretion.

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