According to Law360, the Fifth Circuit on September 15, 2022 upheld a ruling revoking a man's passport because of his $400,000 tax debt, saying U.S. Supreme Court guidance shows that the freedom to travel internationally isn't a fundamental right protected by the U.S. Constitution.
The three-judge panel unanimously agreed that a 2015 law allowing the government to revoke James Franklin's passport because he owed more than $50,000 in tax penalties was a useful tool for recovering billions in delinquent taxes owed to the Internal Revenue Service.
"Congress was within its rights to provide the IRS another arrow in its quiver to support its efforts to recoup seriously delinquent tax debts," Judge Carolyn Dineen King wrote in the panel's opinion. "And, importantly, what Congress provided was an arrow, not a bazooka."
Supreme Court After 1965 Making It Clear That
International Travel Should Not Be Considered The Same
As Constitutionally Protected Travel Between States.
The judges praised the law's effectiveness as limited in scope to incentivize only deeply delinquent taxpayers while also preventing those taxpayers from leaving the country to hide money offshore.
"The government is not authorized to seize the passport of any person who owes any taxes," the court said. "Instead, the scheme is focused on those with serious tax debts and provides several procedural safeguards through both the tax process and, ultimately, through a cause of action should the certification itself be erroneous."
Franklin sued the IRS in 2020 after it certified $400,000 in penalties against him for tax years going back to 1998 and accused him of not reporting a foreign trust and of failing to file accurate returns. The certification of the penalty triggered the secretary of state to revoke his passport. He sued, saying the law that allowed his passport to be revoked was a violation of his Fifth Amendment right to due process.
Read more at: Tax Times blog