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Owe back taxes? No travel for you

A measure under consideration in Congress would revoke or deny US passports to citizens who are seriously delinquent on $50,000 or more in taxes.

By MSN Money Partner Apr 12, 2012 1:50PM

This post is by Robert W. Wood at


If he were in charge of travel, the Soup Nazi might say, “No passport for you!”


In real life, travel may seem unrelated to taxes, except perhaps for those annoying airport taxes on international destinations. But a bigger tax and travel connection could keep you at home -- permanently.


A tax law quietly proposed a few months ago that would deny or revoke the passport of anyone who owes $50,000 or more to the Internal Revenue Service is gaining momentum.


In America, we love to tinker with our tax laws. Congress is always introducing one bill or another to tweak an already bloated and increasingly dysfunctional tax system.


It’s curious how ingredients go into the sausage, often making strange legislative bedfellows. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., proposed that if you owe the IRS more than $50,000, you shouldn’t get a passport. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, added an amendment to a highway transportation bill. (Post continues after video.)

Now this "we need the money" provision has morphed into Senate Bill 1813, introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. It was introduced in November and passed by the Senate on March 14 "to reauthorize federal-aid highway and highway safety construction programs, and for other purposes."


At best, there seems to be a titular connection between this provision and highway safety. Nevertheless, the law would authorize the federal government to prevent Americans from leaving the country if they owe back taxes.


It was Senate Majority Leader Reid who proposed allowing the State Department to 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."


Does this apply in all cases? Mercifully, no. You could travel if your tax debt is being paid in a timely manner or in emergency circumstances or for humanitarian reasons. But this isn’t limited to criminal tax cases or situations where the government fears someone is fleeing a tax debt.


In fact, if the bill is passed, you could have your passport revoked merely because you owe, say, $60,000 and the IRS has filed a notice of lien. Bear in mind that the IRS files tax liens routinely when you owe taxes -- it’s just the agency's way of putting creditors on notice so the IRS will eventually get paid. In that sense, this you-can’t-travel idea seems pretty extreme.


Some commentators note that a far smaller sum of unpaid child support can trigger the same kind of passport action. Why shouldn’t unpaid taxes, they argue? Others attack the proposal as potentially unconstitutional.


Stay tuned as this proposed law is debated.


More from and MSN Money:


Apr 14, 2012 10:54PM

So now we lose our freedom to travel--just like those in communist China and Russia.  What about the mistakes the IRS makes?  Of course, you can clear those up--eventually--but meanwhile your plane has left.  I'm unlikely to ever owe that much in tax, but I still think the idea is atrocious.  How about we also insist that all those who got student loans are not allowed to leave the country until their loans are paid back?  Or, if you are or have been on unemployment or welfare, you can't leave until you've worked and paid taxes for a certain number of years, or . . . . or .

 . ..

Or you can't return until you pay any and all taxes on accounts in overseas banks? 

Apr 13, 2012 3:00PM
Oh Oh, Obama will have to veto this one. His Czars and friends will not be able to come back to this Country unless they hitch a ride on Air Force One. You got to be kidding me, what a joke. Might make it a little more difficult for a few but this will not help. You can leave but will have to hire a "Coyote" to get back (faster anyway).
Apr 19, 2012 9:05AM
Does this apply to all the CONGRESSMEN who owe hundreds of thousands in back taxes?  And all the celebrities??

How about revoking passports from anyone who got over 50K in general or credit card or student debts ? How about grounding for unpaid parking tickets or angle monitoring drivers upon the citation just to assure the traffic court apperances ? Why bother. Just shoot them in the both legs to assure they spend the next few month in the hospital and won't go anywhere. We'll call it the Freedom of Stay Put Act.

May 1, 2012 5:47PM

A new report just out from the Internal Revenue Service reveals that 36 of President Obama's executive office staff owe the country $833,970 in back taxes. These people working for Mr. Fair Share apparently haven't paid any share, let alone their fair share.

Apr 17, 2012 3:14PM
Living legal in Costa Rica, I'm beginning to think one of these days I will have to aquire citizenship and spend the $450 to revoke my U.S. The Costa Rican residency gives me the same rights as a citizen , except the right to be employed, self -employment is ok. 2 more years and I will have residency without conditions. Two of my friends are giving up their U.S. citizenship due to high taxes the U.S. charges Americans the world over, because they can.
May 1, 2012 5:44PM

 About 30,000 active-duty troops and a similar number of reserve-component members owe the Internal Revenue Service a collective $390 million in back taxes , according to IRS data.

Apr 17, 2012 8:50PM
Oh boo who.....the 1% might have to pay their tax bill.  Oh boo who.
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