A little-noticed provision in the highway funding bill Congress passed this week threatens a right most Americans take for granted: the right to travel abroad. The provision in question gives the Internal Revenue Service the authority to revoke the passport of anyone the IRS claims owes more than $50,000 in back taxes.
Congress is giving the IRS this new power because a decline in gas tax receipts has bankrupted the federal highway trust fund. Of course, Congress would rather squeeze more money from the American people than reduce spending, repeal costly regulations, or return responsibility for highway construction to the states, local governments, and the private sector. On the other hand, most in Congress fear the political consequences of raising gas, or other, taxes. Giving the IRS new powers allows politicians to increase government revenue without having to increase tax rates. Some even brag about how they are “cracking down on tax cheats.”
If you think this is nothing to worry about then you are not paying attention. The IRS can and does routinely fabricate/estimate tax liabilities prior to auditing someone for a variety of reasons. Usually it involves some kind of missed filing or missing documentation. But the IRS is now a highly politicized organization that has been used to attack political opponents. This measure will make it even easier. The IRS can simply “estimate” that you owe more than $50,000 and you will not allowed to leave the country. Beware. You need a second passport more than ever if you plan on staying in the USA.