Departing Aliens and the Sailing Permit

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By Karl L. Fava, CPA    July 1, 2017

Sec. 6851(d) indicates that no alien, subject to exceptions by regulations, “shall depart from the United States unless he first procures from the Secretary a certificate that he has complied with all the obligations imposed upon him by the income tax laws.” The rules of Sec. 6851(d) were initially codified as Section 250(g) of the Revenue Act of 1921 and were enacted to thwart departing aliens from leaving the country with outstanding income tax liabilities. The Code section laid the groundwork for what is commonly known as a “sailing permit” or “departure permit.”

With the enactment of Sec. 7345, some taxpayers may be contemplating the horror of being detained in an airport security line when attempting to use their passport for foreign travel. The IRS has indicated that it will not be issuing proposed regulations on this new law and will begin enforcement upon issuance of a notice. Practitioners must wait and see how the IRS proceeds in this area, but one wonders if this new law will “fall through the cracks” similar to the sailing permit rules that have existed for nearly a century. Sec. 7345 requires the transfer of taxpayer information between the IRS and the State Department, whereas the sailing permit rules would require the Department of Homeland Security or the State Department to provide information to the IRS for enforcement.

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