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Passport Revocation or Denial for Unpaid Taxes

Jan 11, 2023

How can a taxpayer’s tax debt allow the IRS to impact their U.S. passport?

The IRS can inform the State Department about taxpayers who are “seriously delinquent” with their tax debt, resulting in the suspension of their passport or denial of a passport application or renewal. The term used by the IRS is to “certify to the State Department.” The threshold for what the IRS deems “seriously delinquent” changes each year, but currently is any tax debt with a total balance of more than $59,000, including penalties and interest. Another factor that must occur for a tax period to be deemed “seriously delinquent” is that a tax lien must be filed on the period, or a levy had been issued previously.

The tax types eligible for certification are individual income taxes, Trust Fund Recovery Penalties, or any other business taxes an individual is liable for. Please note that if the taxpayer is overseas when the suspension occurs, they will be issued a limited-validity passport allowing them to return directly to the United States.

What prevents a passport suspension?

The IRS does not deem a tax debt seriously delinquent if the following applies:

  • The tax is being paid through an Installment Agreement,
  • The tax is being paid with an Offer in Compromise accepted by the IRS,
  • A Collection Due Process hearing is timely requested regarding a Final Notice of Intent to Levy, or
  • Collection has been suspended due to the submission of a request for Innocent Spouse Relief.

Also, the IRS will not certify to the State Department a taxpayer:

  • Who is in bankruptcy,
  • Who is confirmed by the IRS to be a victim of tax-related identity theft,
  • Whom the IRS has determined is unable to repay the tax debt and notates their account as currently not collectible due to hardship,
  • Who is located within a federally declared disaster area,
  • Who has a pending installment agreement proposal with the IRS,
  • Who has a pending Offer in Compromise with the IRS, or
  • Who is serving in a designated combat zone.

How does the process work?

The taxpayer will receive a notice from the IRS informing them they are deemed a “seriously delinquent” taxpayer, and therefore, their passport is being suspended, or in the case you have submitted an application for a new passport or renewal, the application will be denied by the State Department. Upon receipt of this notice, it is essential to seek professional help to take immediate action in an attempt to reverse the IRS decision. This is a very time-sensitive issue and working to resolve it immediately is of the utmost importance.

At the same time the IRS is issuing the taxpayer the notice, they are concurrently issuing a notice to the State Department certifying that the taxpayer is considered “seriously delinquent”. If a passport or passport renewal application is pending, the State Department will hold it to allow the taxpayer the opportunity to resolve the tax debt issue. If the tax debt is not resolved, the State Department will deny the application, so a new passport will not be issued, or an existing passport will not be renewed. If you are not in the process of renewing a current passport, the State Department can revoke your existing passport, though that practice is not yet common.

In summary, what does this mean? It means the taxpayer will not be able to travel outside the United States. And if the taxpayer’s job requires them to travel outside the country, it will affect their job or business.

So how do you resolve this threat to your passport?

Unfortunately, this is a legal IRS tool that can be utilized to force taxpayers to resolve their outstanding tax debts. But do not despair, as there are options available to resolve the passport certification. As mentioned above, the IRS will stop the certification process if:

  • There is a pending proposal for an Installment Agreement,
  • The IRS has accepted an Offer in Compromise that is being paid on,
  • The IRS has determined a taxpayer is unable to repay the tax debt due to financial hardship, or
  • An appeal has been filed against the threat of enforcement action.

Once a tax debt falls under one of the qualifications to stop the passport certification, the IRS will issue another notice informing the State Department that the taxpayer’s certification has been reversed and the threat against the passport will be lifted. Now, if the resolution a taxpayer has in place defaults, the IRS will certify the passport again, and the timeframe to prevent the suspension or denial is significantly reduced. Therefore, it is always important to ensure any resolution you have in place with the IRS does NOT default.

How can Golden Lion Tax Solutions help?

The Golden Lion Tax Solutions team has extensive experience with successfully handling passport certification issues since the program was implemented in 2018. Our team has learned all aspects of the process to ensure our client’s taxpayer rights are protected. We have dealt with various instances where holding a passport was detrimental to our client’s everyday life. We understand this is a time-sensitive issue and will work quickly to prevent or resolve the suspension of our client’s passport. If you have received a notice from the IRS that you or your client’s passport is at threat of being certified, or you have a tax debt that could be considered “seriously delinquent,” contact us today so we can quickly get you back on track and keep your passport protected.


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