U.S. citizens who owe money to the tax man might soon be barred from flying out of the country — or even out of town.
Two separate federal government policies are converging to make traveling difficult for travelers in the unspecified future. Buried in December's Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act is a provision that gives the IRS the right to have the State Department deny or revoke the passport of a taxpayer that has a delinquent federal tax bill of at least $50,000.
Meanwhile, another law is currently being implemented that may mean tax delinquents flying domestically could get caught up in the IRS dragnet: REAL ID — the antiterrorism measure that sets minimum standards for states that issue licenses and state identification.
The Department of Homeland Security has set Jan. 22, 2018, as the deadline for which all states must comply with REAL ID requirements. After that date, travelers from any states with non-compliant IDs — including Minnesota, Missouri, Washington and American Samoa — would need a U.S. passport for domestic or international air travel. Several other states like New York and Louisiana, have been granted extensions until REAL ID comes into full effect on October 2020.
"For those travelers denied passports [by the FAST Act] in states that do not issue REAL ID compliant driver's license, their options will be very limited for providing acceptable documentation for air travel," said Andrew Meehan, policy director of the advocacy group Keeping Identities Safe.
The details are in the "Revocation or Denial of Passport in Case of Certain Delinquencies" section of the FAST Act. In essence, a U.S. citizen would be in danger of having a passport request or renewal denied — or having their passport revoked entirely — if they have a cumulative federal tax bill over $50,000, including penalties and interest.
Such a scenario also includes the IRS having filed a notice of lien against that individual, or if the agency has filed a notice of levy to seize property to satisfy a debt.