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IRS and “Stalinist” Powers?

“Stalinist” is how IBD describes a provision in the new transportation bill, which would give the IRS the power to revoke passport rights for individuals they suspect of owing more than $50k in taxes. The key word here is “suspect,” because apparently no court ruling is required:

“America, Love It Or Leave It” might be an obsolete slogan if the “bipartisan transportation bill” that just passed the Senate is approved by the House and becomes law. Contained within the suspiciously titled “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act,” or “MAP 21,” is a provision that gives the Internal Revenue Service the power to keep U.S. citizens from leaving the country if it finds that they owe $50,000 or more in unpaid taxes — no court ruling necessary.

It is hard to imagine any law more reminiscent of the Soviet Union that America toppled, or its Eastern Bloc slave satellites.

The rule certainly seems excessive. There are already plenty of ways for the IRS to badger tax delinquents, including legal claims on personal property. Where is the evidence that a law like this is even necessary?

And could the bureaucrats at the IRS really be trusted to handle this smoothly? Even the TSA has made mistakes with its own, much more critical No-Fly List. Now the information is passing through two government agencies. Imagine getting incorrectly flagged as a suspected tax evader while trying to catch a flight.

The proposed law isn’t as unprecedented as one might think, though. The federal government already has the power to limit your overseas travel for a variety of reasons, including unpaid child support, The Atlantic reports. Plus, you can get the travel ban lifted if you officially contest the IRS allegations:

As [University of Georgia Professor Timothy] Meyer points out, MAP 21 certainly isn’t the first law to limit a person’s right to travel because they owe somebody money. The State Department screens passport applications every day for people who owe child support of more than $2500–a lot less than the $50,000 proposed here. And the tax system is routinely used to get Americans to make good on their outstanding liabilities. In fact, over the next few weeks, some folks won’t be getting the refund check they’re expecting if, for instance, they’ve defaulted on their student loans, owe state or local taxes, or haven’t ponied up for the child support they owe. Most people don’t realize it, but the IRS is in contact with federal and state agencies throughout the year, making sure you’ve paid your debts before they send you a chunk of change back in the mail.

The bill has already passed the Senate, but the chances of it being signed into law decreased after House Republicans tacked a provision to it that would require the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. So of course, Obama now says he will veto it. The House GOP should really consider adding Keystone XL approval to any related bills they’re not crazy about – instant Obama-veto, and more news stories about his problematic energy record.