purchase money deed of trust that was exempt from recordation taxes under D.C.Code Section 42-1 102(5)?''
As further clarification, we are only asking for a legal opinion on refinances of purchase money
trust or mortgages on commercial property, not residential property, and we make the
assumption that recordation taxes were not paid on the original indebtedness. For purposes of
brevity, we will hereafter refer to commercial purchase money deeds of trust and commercial
purchase money mortgages as simply, "purchase money loans".
Your July 25, 2011 Response
Your July 25th letter appears to answer the question in the preceding paragraph in the
affirmative - i.e. you state, "(0 Jur plain reading ofthe Act, particularly as compared with its
former language, suggests that the recordation tax should be assessed on the full amount of theindebtedness, to the extent that no recordation tax was paid on the original indebtedness."However, you then go on for pages about contrary legislative history and address arguments that
"could be made" if
the District were to decide to collect these taxes. This analysis is used to
excuse the OTR's disregard of the plain meaning of
the law, but, in fact, this analysis raises evenmore difficult questions.In order to be clear as to what we are asking of you, we think it is important to address
some aspects of
your July 25th letter which caused us particular concern.
. Plain Meaning
While your July 25th letter states that a "plain reading of the Act" requires the collectionof recordation tax on the entire indebtedness, you muddy the waters by suggesting that
legislative intent can outweigh the plain meaning of the law. In doing so, you offer a tortured
account of the actual legislative history of the Act. As a co-author of this letter was one of
four co-introducers ofthe Act, we disagree with your characterization of
the legislative intent
and note that your discussion of it is unnecessary in light of the fact that the plain meaning of the
statute is clear.
It is well established that, when the statutory language is plain and unambiguous, thestatute must be enforced according to its terms.3 Put another way, courts "must presume that
(the) legislature says in a statute what it means and means in a statute what it says there.',4 Had
your analysis understood this basic legal tenet, or had it been supported by appropriate statutory
law or case law, there would likely be no need for a further request. But the remaining aspects of
your J wy 25th letter open a door that should have been shut by your "plain meaning" analysis and
J See, e.g., Dodd v. United States, 545 U.S. 353, 359 (2005); Lamie v. United States Trustee, 540 U.S. 526, 534
(2004); Hartford Underwriters Ins. Co. v. Union Planters Bank, N. A., 530 U.S. 1,6 (2000); Caminetti v. United
States, 242 U.S. 470, 485 (1917); see also; District of
Columbia v. Gallagher, 734 A.2d 1087, 1091 (D.C. 1999).
4 Dodd, supra at 357 (quoting Connecticut Nat'l Bank v. Germain, 503 U.S. 249, 253-54 (1992)); See also Bedroc
Ltd. v. United States, 541 U.S. 176, 183 (2004).