The Uneasy Case against Tax Lien Subordination
41 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2014 Last revised: 8 Aug 2014
Date Written: March 18, 2014
I.R.C. § 6323, which governs how the federal tax lien ranks against the interests of the taxpayer’s other creditors, subordinates the tax lien to the claims of other creditors in various ways. Tax lien subordination is commonly justified on the grounds that it enhances taxpayer asset value, facilitates commercial transactions, and reduces monitoring costs for private creditors. This short symposium essay argues, however, that these benefits may be illusory. Tax lien subordination may, in fact, be unnecessarily costly and distortive and may lead to unfair distributive results. This essay suggests that the tax lien priority scheme might be made less costly by reducing its multiple levels of subordination. This could be accomplished in two ways: First, by reducing the magnitude or number of the superpriorities and other prioritized interests; and second, by eliminating the priority of the four horsemen over the un-noticed federal tax lien, or, alternatively, by moving away from a system of pure public notice and toward a semi-private inquiry-based system.
Keywords: Tax, Tax Policy, Tax Procedure, Tax Administration Tax Liens, Article 9, Uniform Commercial Code, Secured Credit
JEL Classification: E62, H20, H21, H22, H23, H24. H25, H26, H29
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