Priority of National Claims Over State Claims.

Anticipating his argument in McCulloch v. Maryland,18 Chief Justice Marshall in 1805 upheld an act of 1792 asserting for the United States a priority of its claims over those of the states against a debtor in bankruptcy.19 The principle was later extended to federal enactments providing that taxes due to the United States by an insolvent shall have priority in payment over taxes he owes to a state.20 Similarly, the Federal Government was held entitled to prevail over a citizen enjoying a preference under state law as creditor of an enemy alien bank in the process of liquidation by state authorities.21 A federal law providing that when a veteran dies in a federal hospital without a will or heirs his personal property shall vest in the United States as trustee for the General Post Fund was held to operate automatically without prior agreement of the veteran with the United States for such disposition and to take precedence over a state claim founded on its escheat law.22


17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 316 (1819). [Back to text]
United States v. Fisher, 6 U.S. (2 Cr.) 358 (1805). [Back to text]
Spokane County v. United States, 279 U.S. 80, 87 (1929). A state requirement that notice of a federal tax lien be filed in conformity with state law in a state office in order to be accorded priority was held to be controlling only insofar as Congress by law had made it so. Remedies for collection of federal taxes are independent of legislative action of the states. United States v. Union Central Life Ins. Co., 368 U.S. 291 (1961). See also United States v. Buffalo Savings Bank, 371 U.S. 228 (1963) (state may not avoid priority rules of a federal tax lien by providing that the discharge of state tax liens are to be part of the expenses of a mortgage foreclosure sale); United States v. Pioneer American Ins. Co., 374 U.S. 84 (1963) (Matter of federal law whether a lien created by state law has acquired sufficient substance and has become so perfected as to defeat a later-arising or later-filed federal tax lien). [Back to text]
Brownell v. Singer, 347 U.S. 403 (1954). [Back to text]
United States v. Oregon, 366 U.S. 643 (1961). [Back to text]