The granting or withholding of that approval is a powerful lever over our lives.
>J.D. Tuccille writes: Increasingly, that’s the theme of modern America. More and more of what we do is dependent on permission from the government. That permission, unsurprisingly, is contingent on keeping government officials happy. Rub those officials the wrong way and they’ll strip you of permission to travel the roads, leave the country, or even make a living.
That’s not a recipe for a free country.
In February of this year, the IRS began sending the U.S. State Department lists of Americans who have a seriously delinquent tax debt, so that these individuals can be denied the right to travel overseas.
“[T]his only applies to a seriously delinquent tax debt,” cautions tax attorney Robert W. Wood, “more than $50,000. Even so, that $50,000 includes penalties and interest. A $20,000 tax debt can grow to $50,000 including penalties and interest.”
Passport revocation isn’t contingent on criminal conviction, or suspicion of flight. Your travel documents can be yanked just for the outstanding debt—even if you’re already outside the country.
“If you’re already overseas, the State Department may, but is not required to, provide a passport permitting your return home,” writes former federal prosecutor Justin Gelfand. “And a 1952 statute makes it a crime for a U.S. citizen to enter or exit the country without a valid passport.”
That law requiring a passport to cross the border in either direction, combined with the threat to strip passports from alleged tax debtors, effectively makes the country one big debtors’ prison.
What connection is there between taxes and the right to travel? None. Members of Congress and other government officials just thought they could coerce more people into meeting IRS demands if they made the right to travel (not so much a “right” any more) dependent on keeping the taxman happy. Read the rest of this entry »