The Federal Tax Lien: Beyond United States v. Rodgers

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Florida Law Review


In United States v. Rodgers, the Supreme Court clarified the extent of the federal government's power to force the sale of jointly held property in which at least one but not all holders of an interest is liable on a tax debt. Resolving a conflict between the courts of appeals, the Court held the government could force a sale even if the tax debtor, acting alone, could not. The Court found property could potentially be subject to a forced sale if the tax debtor has or had any interest in the property. The state-created limitations on alienation of property interests held by innocent joint owners no longer automatically barred the sale.' The Court indicated, however, that district courts should evaluate certain equitable considerations prior to authorization of a forced sale. A government's ability to function properly depends upon its ability to levy and collect taxes. Article I, section of the United States Constitution grants taxing authority to the United States government." Much of Title 26 of the United States Code, commonly called the "Tax Code," is devoted to levying of taxes. The propriety of any particular tax or the application of any particular Code section to a factual setting is beyond the purview of this paper. The focus of this paper is, instead, the ability of the federal government to collect taxes" and, more specifically, its ability to force the sale of property in which a delinquent taxpayer holds or held an interest.

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