People Owing Back Taxes May Lose US Passport

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The U.S. Congress is considering a new bill that will majorly affect people who are significantly behind on their taxes. The law would give the State Department the right to withhold passports from individuals who are at least $50,000 behind on their tax bill, which is considered “seriously delinquent.”

According to estimates, this affects a fairly small number of people, and there will be exceptions for people who have worked out a payment plan with the IRS and for people who are challenging their bill in court. One group that might be affected by the potential law is expatriates: American citizens who live abroad but still pay U.S. taxes rely much more on their passports on a day-to-day basis than most citizens do.

The Washington Post explains that the we-pull-your-passport-if-you-owe-the-taxman ruling is actually tucked within a bigger bill about highway appropriations. The bill will be voted on next month and is likely to pass, which would put the passport rule into effect as of January 1, 2016.

Although this law is new, there are other things that can affect your passport status. Passports can be taken away from people who have been arrested and are considered flight risks. You should also bear in mind that many countries will not let you enter, even if your passport is valid, if it does not have three to six months remaining on it, or a certain number of empty pages. In other words: check your documents early and often.

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