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Tax debt can leave you without a passport

In an effort to crack down on delinquent taxpayers, the IRS has employed a relatively new weapon in its arsenal. Taxpayers who owe more than $53,000 in debt may be unable to renew their passports or to apply for a new passport.

The IRS must inform the U.S. State Department that a taxpayer has a “seriously delinquent tax debt.” According to the IRS, it will only take this step after:

  • There’s been a notice of a federal tax lien;
  • All administrative remedies have been exhausted or are past their deadline; and
  • A levy has been issued

The IRS should send you a notice of this action. However, the IRS will not inform others who may have an interest in your tax status, such as a named power of attorney, your accountant or your tax lawyer.

What happens next?

The goal of the IRS is to compel delinquent taxpayers to pay up. If you address the tax issue, the IRS will remove the delinquent tax certification within 30 days. The removal process may be expedited if you have imminent travel plans or are living abroad and have the urgent need for a passport. Of course, you must still allow the State Department time to process your passport application.

Remember that repaying the outstanding tax debt in full may not be your only option. Offers in compromise and other repayment agreements may enable you to address the issue of back taxes without taking an immediate hit to your wallet. You should always discuss your available options with a skilled professional.

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