The I.R.S. Reports Me to the State Department

Today I got a “Notice of certification of your seriously delinquent federal tax debt to the State Department” from the IRS.

This is something new, though it’s not unexpected. In , Congress passed a law requiring the IRS to notify the State Department of people with large tax debts. At the time, large meant $50,000, but inflation-adjustments have caused that to rise to $52,000 today.

I’ve been over the threshold for most of the time the law has been in effect, so it’s something of a mystery as to why it’s taken them so long to get to me. It’s the usual bureaucratic paralysis at the IRS, I expect. I took advantage of the delay to apply for a renewed passport a little while back, and, though I was already “seriously delinquent” at that time, the State Department issued me one without blinking.

So I’ve got several years yet before that passport expires. At that point I guess I become a prisoner here (though I hear the borders are a little leaky). I’m trying to think of it in a romantic way — like being a Soviet dissident or something — and not in a claustrophobic one.

I also will have a little anxiety next time I try to cross the border, not knowing whether they might flag my passport or even try to seize it as I travel. I’m guessing not — that if the State Department decides to revoke it (which is optional: the law says they can do it, whereas in contrast they must not issue me a new passport or renew it) they’ll do so by sending me a letter or something, not by waiting until I’m at a border crossing. But I could be wrong about that.