Opinion Date: 05/20/2013
Issues: Action to collect state and local real estate transfer taxes; MCL 207.502; MCL 207.523; Defendant-Fannie Mae's charter; 12 USC § 1723a(c)(2); Defendant-Freddie Mac's charter; 12 USC § 1452(e); Housing and Economic Recovery Act; 12 USC § 4617(j)(2); Whether "all taxes" applies to excise taxes; United States v. Wells Fargo Bank; Statutory interpretation; Gwaltney of Smithfield, Ltd. v. Chesapeake Bay Found., Inc.; Consumer Prod. Safety Comm'n v. GTE Sylvania, Inc.; Jimenez v. Quarterman; Hoge v. Honda of Am. Mfg., Inc.; Bates v. United States; Terms undefined by statute; Lopez v. Gonzales; "All" means all; Sander v. Alexander Richardson Inv.; Exceptions to statutes; United States v. Johnson; Plain language controls; Federal Land Bank of St. Paul v. Bismarck Lumber Co.; United States v. State of MI; Excise taxes; Greiner v. Lewellyn; Murdock v. Ward; Plummer v. Coler; United States Trust Co. v. Helvering; Direct taxes; National Fed'n of Indep. Bus. v. Sebelius
Court: U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit
Case Name: County of Oakland v. Federal Hous. Fin. Agency
e-Journal Number: 54607
Judge(s): McKeague, Martin, and Guy
The court held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for plaintiffs because defendants' exemptions from "all [state and local] taxation" includes Michigan state and county real estate transfer taxes. Plaintiffs sued defendants in an effort to collect state and local real estate transfer taxes that plaintiffs claimed were owed for real property transfers made by defendants. On appeal, the court rejected plaintiffs' argument that when Congress exempted defendants from "all taxation," it did not intend to exempt them from state and county real estate transfer taxes. The court held that "the common sense, non-technical interpretation of 'all taxation'" had to include the state and county real estate transfer taxes here, which impose a tax on the "seller or grantor" when a deed or other instrument of conveyance is recorded during the transfer of real property. "In other words, a straightforward reading of the statute leads to the unremarkable conclusion that when Congress said ‘all taxation,' it meant all taxation." Further, the court concluded that, "because the statutes are clear, we are not in a position to second-guess Congress and create a new exception in the statute for state and county real estate transfer taxes." The court rejected plaintiffs' argument that the plain language of the statutes should not control, finding that carrying their "argument to its logical conclusion would lead to a somewhat absurd result." The court doubted "that Congress would have said defendants were exempt from 'all taxation' if it only meant they were exempt from personal property taxes. This cannot be correct and this conclusion is not supported by the plain language of the statute." Vacated and remanded.
Full Text Opinion