Federal Lien Registration Act Summary

The original Uniform Tax Lien Registration Act was promulgated in 1926. In 1966, it was revised to meet the latest requirements of the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1954. Specifically, Section 6323 of the U.S.I.R.C. allows federal tax liens to be filed in an office designated by the law of the state in which the property subject to the lien is situated. Unless state law authorizes their filing, tax liens must be filed in the records of the federal district court for the district in which the property is found.


The Federal Tax Lien Registration Act provides authority for federal tax liens to be filed in the appropriate office under state law, and a simple procedure for filing them. Uniform Law Commissioners' records show that 41 jurisdictions adopted the 1926 or the updated 1966 Federal Tax Lien Registration Act.

For many years, tax liens were the only concern. But then came the Federal Pension Reform Act. In Section 4068(a), the Federal Pension Reform Act provides for employer liability liens which are similar liens to federal tax liens. The proviso that filing will take place in the federal courts unless state law authorizes filing can be found in the Pension Reform Act, as well.

In 1986, the need for a broader act became even greater. Congress adopted the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA), to deal with the clean-up of toxic and hazardous wastes. SARA has a lien provision (42 USCA 9607 (1) ) with a great potential for use as the Environmental Protection Agency enforces its mandate.

The major problem with filing federal liens other than at the appropriate state facility is the effect on real estate title. Title searches must, of necessity, include federal district court offices, as well as the usual records at the county level. The problem of dual filing and extended title searches is so aggravated that title insurers are being advised to seek exclusions for federal liens in title policies, until the states permit federal lien filings to be made in the same office every interest in real estate is recorded.

Difficulties may arise with dual filing systems for personal property, as well. Liens not found in the records in which secured transactions are usually recorded under Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code, or in the motor vehicle records, mean that subsequent creditors and purchasers may be injured. Title and creditor records for personal property do not have the longevity of real property records, however, so the greatest problem continues to be the real estate problem.

The Federal Lien Registration Act does not change the terms of the 1966 Federal Tax Lien Registration Act essentially, except to broaden applicability to all federal liens. Section 1 notes that the Act applies to federal tax liens and to other federal liens, "notices of which... are required or permitted to be filed. .. ." Filing is permitted in the office normally utilized for filing all transactions pertaining to particular property.

For real estate, it is the locality of the property that controls. In most instances, filing will be in the county or counties in which the property is found. For personal property, most states would provide for filing in the office of the Secretary of State where security interests under the Uniform Commercial Code are filed. Not all states provide for centralized filing under the UCC, and not all kinds of filings are under the UCC (an example is motor vehicle notes). Local filing rules would then apply.

As the Federal Tax Lien Registration Act did before it, the Federal Lien Registration Act prescribes the duties of the filing officer and authorizes filing fees. The provisions of the earlier act change only enough to reflect the broader coverage.

The Federal Lien Registration Act merely updates an old concern. It should be adequate for meeting the terms of existing federal lien provisions and for any that may be created into the future.