A controversial amendment to the highway bill giving the IRS the power to lift the passports of American citizens who owe more than $50,000 in back taxes has been cut from the final version of the measure.
The provision would have come into play if the IRS certified that a person has “seriously delinquent taxes,” defined as in excess of $50,000. If so, the Secretary of State could then determine “whether to issue, deny, renew or revoke a passport.”
The measure, that would have taken effect January 1, 2013, sailed through the Senate with little notice on a bipartisan 74-22 vote but drew fire in the House and was cut from the final version of the $100 billion, two-year bill.
House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., called attention to the passport provision in April. At the time he said the measure endangered due process rights and empowered the IRS to administratively restrict travel rights without a judicial hearing.
Sensenbrenner told Newmax he was happy the provision was cut from the final bill.
“I am happy to see the provision giving the IRS power over our Due Process rights was left out of the highway-funding bill,” he said. “This provision would have allowed the IRS to administratively deny Americans the ability to travel without first having their day in court. Let us consider this a reminder that we must be vigilant to protect our constitution from well-meaning but ill-conceived attacks.”
The highway bill was approved by both Houses at the end of June and President Barack Obama is set to sign it into law on Friday.
Generally speaking, revocation or denial of a passport is left to the judicial system and usually occurs in cases where there is a risk a person would flee the country. However, this would not be the first time the government has turned to restricting the right to travel to collect debt.
The welfare reform legislation of 1996 included a provision that set up the Passport Denial Program. According to information from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Child Support Enforcement the provision “requires the Secretary of State refuse to issue a passport to any person certified by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services as owing a child support debt greater than $2,500.
“Further, the Secretary of State may take action to revoke, restrict, or limit a passport previously issued to an individual owing such a child support debt.”
The program has resulted in the collection of tens of millions of dollars. The government estimated that the passport provision for taxes could have brought in more than $500 million in its first five years of operation.
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