According to Forbes contributor Robert W. Wood, within days, the IRS will be able to revoke your passport for unpaid taxes. Wood says this idea has been kicking around for several years. This time, it is buried within 1300 pages of highway legislation. The government will surely see it as a nice complement to FATCA, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. That massive law penalizes foreign banks that don’t hand over American account holders.
Not everyone is happy about giving the IRS power over passports. A group called American Citizens Abroad ACA has urged Congress to reject tying tax collection to passports. Their press release is worth reading. But Congress is poised to pass H.R.22, which has already passed both the House and the Senate. It is in conference, but is not expected to change. So, get ready for new section 7345 of the tax code, called “Revocation or Denial of Passport in Case of Certain Tax Delinquencies.”
The State Department could revoke, deny or limit passports for anyone the IRS certifies as having a seriously delinquent tax debt in an amount in excess of $50,000. In January of 2016, the State Department will start blocking Americans with ‘seriously delinquent’ tax debts. Administrative details about how all this will work are scant. But in all likelihood, it will mean no new passport and no renewal. It could even mean the State Department will rescind existing passports of people who fall into that category.
There is also an administrative exception, allowing the State Department to issue a passport in an emergency or for humanitarian reasons. But how that will work isn’t clear, nor is the amount of time it will take to get special dispensation. You would still be able to travel if your tax debt is being paid in a timely manner, as under a signed installment agreement.
By Robert W. Wood, an attorney who focuses on U.S. tax and litigation issues.
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