Some Troubling Surprises in the New Highway Bill

Some news of interest to tax resisters in the U.S.:

  • The on-again/off-again boondoggle of the federal government contracting out to private debt collection agencies to pursue people behind on their taxes is apparently back on again. By including the program in a new transportation bill, its proponents could use the income they hope to see from the program to offset other spending. It would probably be more efficient for the government just to hire more IRS agents to go after the money, but there are few things a Republican Congress would be less likely to do than give the IRS more money to increase the ranks of the National Treasury Employees Union.
    • My guess is that these private debt collectors are going to have a hell of a time. Since the last time this sort of plan was floated, a massive, years-long, ongoing, coast-to-coast scam has been in progress in which callers impersonating tax collectors have been getting victims to pony up money. News reports follow in the wake of the heists, all saying that if someone calls you up about a supposed tax debt, it’s a scam. The private agencies are gonna have a hell of a time distinguishing themselves from the scammers.
    • If the program is like the last one (and I haven’t seen the details yet, so I’m not sure), the agencies will be able to keep 25% of what they collect for themselves. It’s small consolation, but some consolation, to know that at least some of the money won’t be going directly to the government.
    • Also, if it’s anything like last time, “Private collection agencies cannot take any type of enforcement action against you to collect this debt (such as filing a Federal Tax Lien or issuing a levy).” In other words, they’re less powerful than the IRS itself, so if you’re determined not to pay anyway, you should probably be glad if your case gets assigned to a private agency and it may be worth your while to drag things out with them rather than having the case reassigned back to the IRS.
  • In more troubling news, another part of the same Transportation bill would revoke passports from people who are behind on their taxes by more than $50,000. I’ll probably hit the $50k mark in a couple of years, so I take this very personally.
    • The bill hasn’t become law just yet. They’re still ironing out the differences between the House and Senate versions. But both houses’ versions had both of these proposals, so they seem likely to survive (though it’s not unheard of for parts of legislation that are passed by each house to wind up on the cutting room floor regardless, whatever you may have heard on Schoolhouse Rock). Obama is expected to sign the bill into law either way.
    • One twist on this is that, for some Americans, you need a passport even to fly domestic. Yes, in the land of liberty.
    • When the final bill is passed and signed I’ll take another look and investigate what the process of passport denial/revocation might actually look like in practice. And I’ll of course post something here if my own passport gets yanked. I may even accept that as a challenge and see if I can row a boat to Cuba or wade across the Rio Grande.
  • Erica Weiland reports back from the NWTRCC national gathering in Las Vegas.
  • Vice profiles war tax resisting superlawyer J. Tony Serra.
  • Virtually Yours, at disinformation considers the ramifications of the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling on conscientious objectors to military taxation.
  • BloombergBusiness notes that the IRS is shedding criminal investigation agents in heaps, and suggests this is a great time to be a tax cheat.