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.”
Pro-IRS politicians ignore how this new power will punish Americans who have actually paid all the taxes they are legally obligated to pay. This is because the provision does not provide taxpayers an opportunity to challenge a finding that they owe back taxes in federal court before their passport is revoked. Because IRS employees are not infallible, it is inevitable that many Americans will lose their right to travel because of a bureaucrat’s mistake.
It is particularly odd that a Republican Congress would give this type of power to the IRS considering the continuing outrage…