Last month, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) said it will begin implementing procedures to start collecting from those people with “seriously delinquent tax debts.”
And, Americans who are behind on their taxes could be denied a passport, or even have theirs revoked, unless they enter into a payment agreement, Fox News reported.
This drastic step comes as part of a crackdown on delinquent tax debt legislated by Congress. The crackdown is targeting those owing more than $51,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest, for which the agency has issued a levy or filed a notice and the period to challenge has expired, Fox reported.
These measures are driven from the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which requires the IRS to inform the State Department of those people who are seriously delinquent. The State Department is required to deny the application for or the renewal of a passport.
The State Department can also revoke that passport “in some cases,” according to the IRS. The law also allows the department to deny a passport to those who provide incorrect or invalid Social Security numbers.
Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, told Fox News: “One of my civil liberties concerns here is that the right of citizens to travel and emigrate would seem to be a basic right of citizenship. But by denying passport issuance, the government would be denying citizens the right to travel.”
Edwards also said: “Suspending passports in the course of a civil dispute — a civil dispute that may well be in litigation or soon to be in litigation — is banana-republic, totalitarian stuff.”
In a blog post on the IRS website this past June, the Taxpayer Advocate Service noted that there is a history of denying passports to incentivize behavior. It cites a 1996 law that requires the State Department to deny passport applications and revoke passports if someone was delinquent on child support.
The Taxpayer Advocate Service is concerned about constitutional challenges, since there are only two forms of notice to affected taxpayers.
The IRS “does not plan to provide any additional, direct notice to affected taxpayers beyond the statutory requirements,” the blog states.
The IRS says those at risk can avoid the loss or denial of a passport if they pay the debt in full or agree to a payment plan.
It also won’t affect those in bankruptcy, serving in a combat zone or those for whom the IRS has determined the debt is not collectible “due to hardship,” it said.
The State Department noted that passports can also be issued in emergency situations or for humanitarian reasons, while citizens overseas are eligible for a limited validity passport so they can return to the U.S., Fox reported.