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  • Are U.S. Passports are Privilege or a Right?

    While you may have an opinion about this question, the answer isn’t actually up for debate; passports are not a right, they are a privilege extended to Americans who are not incarcerated, do not have a warrant out for their arrest, and do not owe child support in excess of $2500.  In 2012, we may see a new restriction that may affect your eligibility to obtain a passport:  delinquent tax issues.  The concept is painfully simple:  If you don’t pay the tax man, you lose your privilege to have a passport and leave the country.

    According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), at the end of fiscal year 2010, the balance of reported unpaid federal taxes was about $330 billion.  If the IRS and U.S. Department of State team up, they hope that they can effectively link federal tax debt collection to passport issuance as an approach to help reduce the federal deficit and to increase taxpayer compliance with tax laws.  Americans owing 50K or more should be more concerned than Americans owing smaller amounts of money.

    Here is the scoop:  The IRS has proposed new regulations originally reviewed in March 2012 describing the information which must be included with U.S. passport applications. Under the rules, anyone who applies for a U.S. passport, a passport renewal or a green card, must include tax information with the application. Passport and permanent resident applicants must provide a taxpayer identification number (TIN), if they have one. The required information must be submitted with all New Passport, Lost Passport, and adult Passport Renewal applications, and failure to provide this information could result in a $500 penalty.

    Many Americans view this proposed law as an unfair punishment that erodes our civil rights.  The UAE and China are the only other countries that have such consequences for ignoring or evading civil debts.  On the other hand, why should my tax-evading neighbor get to take that spring break trip to Mexico, while I save up to pay my taxes? Does the punishment fit the crime?

    We want to hear what you think!  Is the government going too far, or is it OK to limit passport issuance to those who obey the law and pay their taxes?

    written by: Laurie Lee of Swift Passport Services

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