As the State Department starts rolling out more letters denying U.S. passport renewals and initial applications on the backs of IRS Notices CP 508C to U.S. citizens (USCs); USC taxpayers are highly motivated to address their “seriously delinquent tax debts.” What rights do USCs have vis-a-vis these government allegations in their tax certifications?
For a deep dive into a range of issues that USCs need to consider, if they find themselves on the side of an unfortunate IRS Notices CP 508C – see the TAS’s excellent Interim Guidance Memorandum dated April 26, 2018. One key point made by the TAS memo is:
The right to travel internationally is a fundamental right, protected by the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 by the United Nations after a unanimous vote (including the United States) “[e]veryone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” The National Taxpayer Advocate expressed concerns that the IRS’s implementation of the passport program fails to protect taxpayers’ right to travel as well as their rights promised under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. See the National Taxpayer Advocate’s blog and the Fiscal Year 2018 Objectives Report to Congress.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in an opinion penned by retired Justice Souter in Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain (2004), has some interesting observations about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which is cited above by the Taxpayer Advocate) limiting its application in the Alvarez-Machain case. This is a fascinating case to read, as it arises out of the tragic torture and murder of a DEA agent, Enrique Camarena-Salazar in 1985 in Mexico. Physician Alvarez-Machain was subsequently indicted in the U.S. as part of the torture and murder scheme and the DEA hired private Mexican nationals to seize Alvarez and bring him to the United States in a private plane to stand trial.
Alvarez-Machain was ultimately granted motion for a judgement of acquittal on the criminal charges.
In response, Alvarez-Machain then sued the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act and the Alien Tort Statute.
The Supreme Court opined (on these tort action claims and the application of international law as to U.S. federal tort statutes) as follows:
. . . To begin with, Alvarez cites two well-known international agreements that, despite their moral authority, have little utility under the standard set out in this opinion. He says that his abduction by Sosa was an “arbitrary arrest” within the meaning of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Declaration), G. A. Res. 217A (III), U. N. Doc. A/810 (1948). And he traces the rule against arbitrary arrest not only to the Declaration, but also to article nine of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Covenant), Dec. 19, 1996, 999 U. N. T. S. 171,22 to which the United States is a party, and to various other conventions to which it is not. But the Declaration does not of its own force impose obligations as a matter of international law. See Humphrey, The UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in The International Protection of Human Rights 39, 50 (E. Luard ed. 1967) (quoting Eleanor Roosevelt calling the Declaration “ ‘a statement of principles … setting up a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations’ ” and “ ‘not a treaty or international agreement … impos[ing] legal obligations’ ”).23 And, although the Covenant does bind the United States as a matter of international law, the United States ratified the Covenant on the express understanding that it was not self-executing and so did not itself create obligations enforceable in the federal courts. . . [emphasis added]
Section 7345(e) provides for judicial review of the IRS’s certifications of “seriously delinquent tax debts” as follows:
(e)Judicial review of certification
After the Commissioner notifies an individual under subsection (d), the taxpayer may bring a civil action against the United States in a district court of the United States or the Tax Court to determine whether the certification was erroneous or whether the Commissioner has failed to reverse the certification.
If the court determines that such certification was erroneous, then the court may order the Secretary to notify the Secretary of State that such certification was erroneous.
Surely, the U.S. Tax Court and Federal District Courts will have much more to say about the rights of USCs who have their U.S. passports revoked or renewals denied by application of 26 U.S.C. 7345. Will the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be meaningful to the Courts applying Section 7345?
How many errors will the IRS make in issuing certifications of “seriously delinquent tax debts” to USCs around the world?
22. Article nine provides that “[n]o one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention,” that “[n]o one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law,” and that “[a]nyone who has been the victim of unlawful arrest or detention shall have an enforceable right to compensation.” 999 U. N. T. S., at 175—176.
23. It has nevertheless had substantial indirect effect on international law. See Brownlie, supra, at 535 (calling the Declaration a “good example of an informal prescription given legal significance by the actions of authoritative decision-makers”).