Unpaid Taxes Jeopardize Passports
HandelontheLaw.com Staff Writer
Effective January 1, 2016, U. S. citizens with unpaid federal taxes may see their passport applications denied or their existing passports revoked. The threshold amount for “seriously delinquent” taxes is $50,000, including penalties and interest, adjusted for inflation. The serious delinquency is usually evidenced by an IRS lien.
The provision is part of the Highway Funding Bill (HR22), passed in similar versions by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The Bill is currently under review by a conference committee and Congress will probably pass the Bill’s final form in early December 2015. The Bill’s text and its progress can be accessed here: Highway Funding Bill (HR22)
The measure is expected to raise $398 million in delinquent federal taxes, penalties and interest within the next decade. A quick recap of the gradual movement toward this provision is found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsTya_KKpOM
The provision has some very vocal critics. Some claim that the right to travel is a fundamental right and therefore denial/revocation of passports is unconstitutional. Other critics speak for approximately 7 million U. S. citizens traveling/living abroad. They claim that the IRS’ poor mailing procedures, coupled with the importance of passports for daily life, militate against this provision. According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), in 2014 the IRS sent 855,000 notices to U. S. citizens abroad; however, the IRS’ data systems cannot accommodate various formats of international addresses; consequently, a number of notices cannot be delivered to their recipients.
TIGTA reported that the IRS’ “processes for addressing international mail issues are ineffective or nonexistent.” The IRS replied that TIGTA’s recommendations will not overcome the IRS’ “budgetary, statutory, and operational constraints”; (translation: “Tough.”)
By Kathy Catanzarite
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