Legal Standards in IRS Passport Cases
The old saying that “you can’t fight city hall” is mostly true. That idea is rooted in the divine right of kings. This Medieval notion held that monarchs could do whatever they want and whenever they wanted since God Himself anointed them to rule. The idea is long gone now, but parts of it remain behind when it comes to the relationship between the IRS and passport renewal. The Service cannot do anything it wants, but sometimes it seems that way.
IRS passport restrictions are fast-tracked under the law. And, given the anemic notice procedures, a person might not find out about the action for years. By that time, judicial review might be your best chance, or even your only chance, to undo the prior certification.
Timeline to Challenge the IRS and Passport Renewal
The statute of limitations is often one of the most criticial components of a civil case. Once it passes, so one can turn back the clock. For some reason, probably because the procedure is so new, there is no specific limitations period for cases involving the IRS and passport renewal.
The standard six-year limitations period seems to apply. This is the limitation on Administrative Procedures Act (APA) claims. And, as outlined below, contesting IRS passport revocation is an APA-like process. The six years could start running when the adverse decision first came down or when the taxpayer applies for a passport.
Standard of Review
The aforementioned APA contains a very strong presumption that agencies like the IRS act in accordance with the law. So, it’s very difficult to overturn their decisions. It is even more difficult because there is no de novo review. Litigants cannot start over form the beginning. They can dispute the decisions but cannot re-argue the facts which led to those decisions.
So, in a court case about the IRS and passport renewal, the Service need only produce a scintilla of evidence in support of its conclusion. If the judge sees an iceglass on the table, the judge can presume that someone just drank a diet soda, glass of water, vodka on the rocks, or anything else. In this context, any evidence in favor of the decision lets the judge conclude that it was not “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.” And that’s all which is required.
The lesson here is that it is much easier to challenge an IRS passport revocation outside of court. Decisions that make it that far are difficult to undo. If you got a notice from the IRS and you have or want a passport, take action to preserve your position today.