Perhaps former Fugees lead singer Lauryn Hill should count herself lucky to have been ‘found’ and charged by US Federal prosecutors with three counts of “knowingly and wilfully failing to file a tax return to the IRS.”
Had she tarried ‘underground’ a little longer an obscure amendment to the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” which has already received Senate approval and is expected to get Congressional endorsement might have led to the IRS dispensing with judicial proceedings altogether and summarily revoking her passport because of her unpaid taxes.
Many believe the amendment to be unconstitutional because:
- having a passport is a fundamental incident of citizenship and it should not be withdrawn without due process; and
- it ostensibly turns U.S tax collectors into border guards as the amendment would give the IRS and State Department the power to revoke a U.S citizen’s passport if it is believed – not proven – that the taxpayer owes more than $50,000 in back taxes.
‘L -Boogie’ – Ms Hill’s popular moniker – claimed that she had always intended to pay her taxes and had settled her bills up to 2007. She however explained in an exhaustive post online that she was forced to go ‘underground’ to create a non-exploitative environment for her and her family.
She did however admit that she knew the decision she made was not a reasonable grounds for deferring her tax payments.
What Ms Hill, a US citizen, may not been aware is the current political climate where Democrats and Republicans alike are preoccupied with a slew of legislative initiatives designed to recoup billions of unpaid taxes dollars there are now few grounds – reasonable or otherwise- for not paying US taxes. In fact the new amendment means that the IRS can dispense with any enquiry into the merits or demerits of the taxpayers reasons for non-payment nor does it have to prove that the violation taken place at all.
All that is required is a ‘belief’ that the tax code was infringed to the tune of $50,000.
Had Ms Hill delayed announcing to the world “Ready or Not here I come” as she so famously did almost two decades and continued her self-imposed exile until she was completely satisfied that her offspring could deal with what she described as pop culture’s “over-commercialization and cannibalization of the young” she might have been shocked when her passport was revoked, not be US Immigration, but by the taxman.
Though Lauryn, unlike her Fugees band-mates, was born in the US getting a US passport these days is quite an involved process. Not having one, in the absence of a national identification card system, is equally problematic. Predictably the proposed amendment deals with the revocation but is silent on the reinstatement of a tax delinquent’s passport even after the tax bill has been settled.
It would seem that given the fore-going and where the Federal government is more interested in reconciling its tax receipts and less with the imposition of custodial sentences for tax evasion, that ‘L-Boogie’ has a date with the courts on June 29 and could face a maximum of a 1 year or $300,000 for her tax indiscretions is indeed quite fortuitous.