Tuesday, April 12, 2011
State issued passports to about 16 million individuals during fiscal year 2008; of these, over 224,000 individuals (over 1%) owed over $5.8 billion in unpaid federal taxes as of September 30, 2008. State is not authorized to restrict the issuance of passports to individuals because they owe federal taxes. In addition, federal law does not permit IRS to disclose taxpayer information, including unpaid federal taxes, to State officials unless the taxpayer consents. In contrast, federal law permits certain restrictions on the issuance of passports to individuals, such as individuals owing child support debts over $2,500. For 2008, the estimated amount of unpaid federal taxes is likely understated because it excludes individuals who have not filed tax returns or underreported income. In addition, according to State officials, State cannot compel a passport applicant to provide a Social Security Number (SSN). As a result, State’s records sometimes did not contain a valid SSN, which is necessary to match passport data to IRS data. Also, the number of passport holders and dollars owed only includes 1 year of passports that were issued, substantially understating the total tax debt for all passport holders.