Duffy, Senior Circuit Judge, Fairchild, Circuit Judge, and Beamer, District Judge.*fn1
FAIRCHILD, Circuit Judge.
The question on this appeal is whether a discharge in bankruptcy after the 1966 amendment to section 17(a) of the bankruptcy act prevents the lien for unpaid federal income taxes which became legally due and owing more than three years preceding bankruptcy from attaching to property acquired by the discharged debtor after bankruptcy.
The government brought action against three defendants named Sanabria to recover unpaid income taxes. Two defendants averred discharges in bankruptcy, releasing them from liability for those taxes which had become legally due and owing more than three years before bankruptcy. The government replied that liens arising on account of those taxes had been appropriately filed with the local recorder of deeds before the bankruptcy proceedings.
The district court granted judgment in favor of defendants with respect to the taxes allegedly discharged, and the government appealed.
The position of the government appears to be that although the taxes involved on this appeal are of sufficient age to be discharged as debts, the liens which arose and notices of which were filed retain sufficient vitality so that if the bankrupt defendants acquire property in the future it will be subject to those liens.
The bankruptcy proceedings were begun about the same time as the government brought its action to recover the taxes. Presumably the government now seeks a declaration that its liens arising out of the taxes outstanding more than three years retain such vitality, notwithstanding the discharge.
Under section 17(a) of the bankruptcy act,*fn2 prior to amendment in 1966, a discharge in bankruptcy did not release a bankrupt from a debt "due as a tax levied by the United States, or any state, county, district, or municipality." Clause (1) so described one of the types of provable debt not affected by a discharge.
Public Law 89-496*fn3 was enacted July 5, 1966, effective 90 days later. It amended clause (1) of section 17(a) so as to limit the class of taxes not dischargeable to "taxes which became legally due and owing by the bankrupt to the United States or to any State or any subdivision thereof within three years preceding bankruptcy" and to taxes under other specified sets of circumstances usually involving some failure to act or fault with respect to the tax liability on the part of the bankrupt. As a result of this restriction of clause (1), federal, state, and local taxes not described in clause (1) have been made dischargeable in bankruptcy.
At the end of clause (1) is a proviso which is the focal point of this controversy: " And provided further, That a discharge in bankruptcy shall not release or affect any tax lien." The proviso means at least that a taxing authority's lien upon property already subjected to the lien at the time of bankruptcy is not released or affected by the discharge even where the tax which gave rise to the lien became legally due and owing more than three years before bankruptcy.
The government contends that the proviso means something more, so that it will have a drastic impact upon the debtor during the period following bankruptcy.
The lien for unpaid federal income tax has a quality by which property acquired by a delinquent taxpayer after his tax liability arises and at any time during the life of the lien becomes subject to the lien.*fn4 The lien imposed by 26 U.S.C. § 6321 continues until the liability is satisfied or becomes unenforceable by reason of lapse of time.*fn5
The government would read the proviso as preserving this quality, where the lien had been filed before bankruptcy, into the period after bankruptcy, so that such lien would attach to property acquired by the debtor after bankruptcy.
But a fair reading of section 17(a), as amended, shows, in our opinion, that the dominant purpose of the change was to relieve a debtor of the burden of these older taxes after bankruptcy. The government's interpretation would permit it to enforce (to the extent of assets acquired by the discharged debtor) collection of all its taxes, regardless of their age, if a lien had been filed. This would to so substantial a ...