Pay Your Taxes, or Be Confined to These United States

A provision buried inside of a federal highway bill would authorize denial, revocation, or limitation of passports of individuals who are seriously tax delinquent.

The federal workforce made some headlines recently when it was revealed that collectively, federal employees owe over $1 billion in unpaid taxes to the government.

This got the attention of lawmakers, some of whom were unhappy about the situation. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced legislation to terminate current federal employees and block hiring new employees who are seriously tax delinquent

A little known provision in a 1,000+ page bill working its way through Congress also addresses tax delinquency. While not aimed specifically at federal employees, it does highlight the focus of Congress on cracking down on collecting any and all tax revenues that it can.

S 1813 was introduced in the Senate by Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and would reauthorize Federal-aid highway and highway safety construction programs, and “for other purposes.”

Among those other purposes and buried on page 1,447, one also finds a clause that would revoke or deny a passport in case of certain tax delinquencies. The pertinent language reads, “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…”

Such action would have the potential effect of prohibiting any tax delinquent individuals from leaving the country, presumably to aid the IRS in locating the individual for collection of the unpaid taxes. Travel restrictions could also include issuing a limited passport to only grant return travel rights to the United States.

There is some allowance in the language for extenuating circumstances, such as “emergency and humanitarian situations,” but there is no mention of needing to charge an individual with tax evasion or any other formal crime to invoke the travel restriction penalties.

As of the time of this writing, the bill had passed the Senate but not the House. If it were to be enacted, the passport restrictions would take effect at the start of 2013.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.