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U.S. citizens detained abroad still face tax fines. Lawmakers want to change that

When journalist Jason Rezaian returned to the U.S. in 2016 after being wrongfully imprisoned in Iran for 544 days, he got a surprise from the U.S. government.

“I got one of those bills from the IRS saying, you owe this much on this year, you owe this much on this year because of failure to pay on time — here's the interest that's accrued,” he told NPR.

The bill was for more than $6,000 — representing late penalties and interest on taxes he wasn’t able to file while imprisoned. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say it’s an unjust reality of U.S. law but a bill to fix the issue remains stalled in the House.

Rezaian, who was released in a prisoner swap, received help from Hostage U.S., an organization that provides resources to hostage families and hostages upon their return. His case was high-profile, and he also had the support of then-presidential envoy for hostage affairs Robert O’Brien and current envoy Roger Carstens.

But as time went on, Rezaian’s bills from the IRS still ballooned to $22,000.

Rezaian said the agency told him they wanted to help, but were limited in howmuch they could do to eliminate the fees.

“I don't look at this as the IRS out for blood and treasure. It's not like that,” Rezaian said. “This is an oversight that nobody really thought about.”

The IRS said in a statement it will “work with the family of any individual who is being held hostage or unlawfully detained to resolve any tax issues that may arise from these heart-wrenching and unconscionable situations.”

It added that from time to time, the State Department provides the IRS with a list of people who have been taken hostage in a terrorist act, and advises the agency to “suspend enforcement related notices and collection activity on

Read more on npr.org