- - Sunday, December 13, 2015

Americans have feared the Internal Revenue Service for a very long time. The words “IRS audit” strike fear in people. Critics of the IRS call the agency at best “rogue” and at worst names like “Gestapo.”

The IRS is an agency out of control, as Americans have learned in the last few years. Since 2010, the IRS has targeted people and organizations for audits and enforcement based on their political believes. This is the same agency that planned in 2013, before the IRS Tea Party scandal became public, to work with the Department of Justice to try and prosecute conservatives for the crime of being conservative.

Every four years, Republican candidates for president make the same pledge. They will neuter the IRS. They will make IRS just three letters in the alphabet. They will make April 15th just another day on the calendar.

So who in their right mind would think that giving the IRS even more power is a good idea?

The Republican congressional leadership.

The Republican-led Congress recently passed the massive five-year Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act or, as Congress loves to give these bills cute acronyms, the FAST Act. The FAST Act was another one of those massive bills Congress loves so much. There were so many provisions in there no one really knew what was there and it was dumped on them so fast, they had to pass it in order to find out what was in it.

One of the little jewels in that bill was a new law that now allows the IRS to revoke or deny a passport if someone owes $50,000 in tax liability.

In typical congressional fashion, the law is passed but the details are left vague. The agency, in this case the IRS, gets to fill in the blanks and decide the rules.

What could possibly go wrong?

A $50,000 tax liability is not hard to create. The new law does not specify if the $50,000 is just unpaid taxes or if it can include penalties and IRS fees as well. Those can and do add up quickly.

Passports are not only needed by Americans for foreign travel, but in 2016 as the REAL ID law take effect, some state-issued driver’s licenses will no longer be valid identification for domestic travel. In other words, some Americans will need a passport for domestic air travel.

For Americans living abroad, this has the potential to be a total nightmare. Americans abroad live under another IRS nightmare called the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. Americans abroad have almost impossible reporting requirements. In many countries, they cannot get bank accounts and have to pay large fees to accountants who understand the intricacies of FATCA. Americans living abroad routinely have communication problems with the IRS because IRS computers cannot properly address mail intended for foreign addresses. Thanks to this bit of congressional brilliance, Americans living abroad may suddenly find their passports revoked without any notice to them that the even owe the IRS money.

Republican candidates for office routinely rail against the IRS and big government. Yet once Republicans get to Washington, they forget about the anger against the IRS and vote to grow government every chance they get.

Every year, Americans are renouncing their American citizenship, and idiotic laws like this one are the reason why.

It is long past time that Republicans start acting on the beliefs they claim they hold. They can start by repealing this idiotic law.

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