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Owe the IRS? You Could Lose Your Passport

On Election Day, here’s a story to remind us that government processes can directly impact our travel plans: A law buried in a proposed bill could prevent U.S. travelers who owe taxes from leaving the country. According to a report that appeared in Forbes this past spring, Bill 1813 contains language that would allow the government to take passports away from travelers in debt to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The bill is currently pending in the House of Representatives.

In March, the Senate passed Bill 1813, which was introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer. The bill is more than 1,000 pages long and mainly addresses the allocation of federal funds for transportation purposes. But planted in the bill is an amendment that would permit the State Department to take away a person’s passport if he or she owes significant back taxes to the IRS.

Here’s what it says in section 7345 of the proposed legislation: “If … 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.”

According to the bill, your passport won’t be revoked if you pay your debt “in a timely manner” or if you need a passport for “emergency circumstances or for humanitarian reasons.” Note that the passport revocation only applies to instances of “seriously delinquent” debt of more than $50,000. However, Forbes points out, “This isn’t limited to criminal tax cases or situations where the government fears someone is fleeing a tax debt.”

Bill 1813 still needs to be passed by the House and then signed by the President before it becomes law. In the meantime, it’s something travelers might want to keep an eye on. You can sign up for email alerts to keep track of the bill at

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(Photo: Capitol Building via Shutterstock)

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