United States Congress Quietly Passes Law Requiring A Passport For Domestic Travel, Is It Constitutional?

A law requiring a passport book or passport card for domestic travel goes into effect in 2016. The United States Congress passed H.R. 22 when it passed the House of Representatives on January 6, 2015, and the Senate on July 30, 2015. Currently, the bill is in the phase just prior to being signed into law by President Obama. This new law will be attached to the tax code in section 7345. The title of section 7345 is “Revocation or Denial of Passport in Case of Certain Tax Delinquencies.”

US Congress In Session
U.S. Congress In Session [Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images]
Currently, a passport is only needed for international travel. To fly within the boundaries of the United States, an air traveler needs to provide an approved form of state-issued identification. The Real ID Act sets the standards for which forms of identification are approved for traveling by air in the United States. When the new passport law goes into effect in 2016, four states will potentially be impacted. The four states are Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York.

The reason that these states may force domestic air travelers to get a passport is due to these states not fully complying with the Real ID Act. The TSA in these states will have the option of forcing people to show a passport in order to get on a plane originating in any of these four states. New York, New Hampshire, and Louisiana all have been given waivers and will not have to worry about a passport on January 1, 2016. The current forms of ID will still be accepted by the TSA until the waiver in these states expires. The waiver expires in Louisiana on October 10, 2016, and in New Hampshire on June 1, 2016. No official date has been given for when the New York waiver will expire. Minnesota does not have any waiver, and people there should get a passport as soon as possible if they plan on traveling by air in 2016.

Now, because the passport law is attached to the tax code, the State Department will have the ability to block any passport to an individual who owe a “seriously delinquent” amount of taxes. The amount that the IRS will use as a base is $50,000. The protocol on how exactly this process will work is still being worked out with the IRS and the State Department.

Not everyone will be able to obtain a passport, which could cause problems.

Disqualifying factors for obtaining a passport

  • Child support debt of $2,500 or more
  • Not being a citizen of the United States
  • Minors under the age of 16 without parental approval

The State Department will still have the ability to grant a waiver or exception in certain cases that are considered an emergency or humanitarian reason. It is not clear yet how this will work, or how long it would take for the State Department to process this type of exception.

Once President Obama signs the passport bill into the law, the constitutionality of it will likely be challenged. The right of a person’s ability to travel is set up by both the states and internationally. In order to determine if this law is constitutional, a lawsuit will have to be filed and the Supreme Court would have to agree to hear the case.

The IRS is not an agency that is perfect. With the IRS collecting taxes, being tied into health care, and soon, domestic air travel, they will have more paperwork and data to deal with that could lead to errors occurring. A person could be found, in error, to be delinquent enough in taxes to disqualify them from flying domestically.

IRS Building
IRS Building [Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images]
How do you feel about the IRS now being tied into domestic air travel? Do you think this law will be constitutional?

[Photo by Lynne Sladky/AP Photo]

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