Pending Federal Legislation Would Authorize Revocation or Non-Renewal of Passports of U.S. Expatriates Who Owe $50,000 in Taxes

The House and Senate have passed separate versions of a highway funding bill (H.R. 3763: Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015; S.808 - Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015) which must be reconciled before being presented to President Obama for his consideration. The Senate Bill includes a provision that would authorize the federal government to revoke the passport of a U.S. citizen who owes $50,000 or more in federal taxes as well as to refuse to issue new or renewed passports to such individuals.

The bill would also permit the government to limit a previously-issued passport to return travel to the U.S. The provision would be effective January 1, 2016 and is expected to generate $368 million in revenue over ten years, according to the Senate Finance Committee. Similar legislation has been under consideration since 2012 but has never gotten this close to becoming law.

An expatriates’ advocacy group, American Citizens Abroad, recently faxed a letter to leaders of both chambers opposing the legislation on the ground that the tax-collection mechanism to be created is "far too draconian," putting expatriate taxpayers at risk of unforeseeable and potentially life-changing consequences and discriminating against that class of taxpayer in comparison to U.S. residents. The organization urges consideration of less burdensome alternatives and hearings to address the impact of the proposed measure on expatriates.

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