The so-called “Surface Transportation Bill” is proving to be a remarkably “fruitful” platform for senators to use the amendment process to push through their pet legislation. Tim just posted about Carl Levin’s SA 1818, which gives Timmy Geithner the power to outlaw credit cards from countries that Carl Levin doesn’t like. Now, American Citizens Abroad, via an update on their Facebook page, tells us that Harry Reid snuck in something much more sinister: a provision allowing the Secretary of State to deny U.S. passport renewal to — or revoke the existing passport of — anyone with outstanding tax debts over a certain threshold.
This provision was stuck into the middle of Reid’s giant amendment SA 1761. You can see the full text at page 153 of the Congressional Record of 1 March 2012. The Senate accepted the amendment unanimously.
SEC. 7345. REVOCATION OR DENIAL OF PASSPORT IN CASE OF CERTAIN TAX DELINQUENCIES.
(a) IN GENERAL.
If the Secretary receives certification by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue that any individual has a seriously delinquent tax debt in an amount in excess of $50,000, the Secretary shall transmit such certification to the Secretary of State for action with respect to denial, revocation, or limitation of a passport pursuant to section 4 of the Act entitled ‘An Act to regulate the issue and validity of passports, and for other purposes’, approved July 3, 1926 (22 U.S.C. 211a et seq.), commonly known as the ‘Passport Act of 1926’.
(b) SERIOUSLY DELINQUENT TAX DEBT.
For purposes of this section, the term ‘seriously delinquent tax debt’ means an outstanding debt under this title for which a notice of lien has been filed in public records pursuant to section 6323 or a notice of levy has been filed pursuant to section 6331, except that such term does not include—
- a debt that is being paid in a timely manner pursuant to an agreement under section 6159 or 7122, and
- a debt with respect to which collection is suspended because a collection due process hearing under section 6330, or relief under subsection (b), (c), or (f) of section 6015, is requested or pending.
(c) ADJUSTMENT FOR INFLATION.
In the case of a calendar year beginning after 2012, the dollar amount in subsection (a) shall be increased by an amount equal to—
- such dollar amount, multiplied by
- the cost-of-living adjustment determined under section 1(f)(3) for the calendar
year, determined by substituting ‘calendar year 2011’ for ‘calendar year 1992’ in subparagraph (B) thereof.
If any amount as adjusted under the preceding sentence is not a multiple of $1,000, such amount shall be rounded to the next highest multiple of $1,000.
This is yet another strong argument to pursue naturalisation where you live. Otherwise, you may find yourself deprived of your freedom of movement by a unilateral IRS determination that you owe taxes and fines — for failing to fill out all their ridiculous, obscure forms (with their giant, life-altering “failure-to-file” fines) about the ordinary, tax-compliant financial life you lead in the country where you actually live. (Perhaps the doomed One Subject at a Time Act could have prevented our esteemed Senators from using amendments to create laws about matters entirely unrelated to Surface Transportation. Which of course is precisely why that Act will die in subcommittee.)