Many individuals worry about receiving a letter from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) notifying them that their taxes are being audited or, worse, that the federal agency has determined that they owe back taxes. Individuals who receive such correspondence may view it as a threat to their freedom and financial bottom line.
While the prospect of incarceration or having to pay back taxes is a reality for some taxpayers, there are many other options available to the IRS to ensure they receive what they believe they are due. One collections approach is revoking your passport (or denying your application if you don’t yet have this travel document).
When did tax delinquencies begin resulting in revoked passports?
The United States Department of State (DOS) is the federal agency responsible for issuing passports to citizens of this country. The issuance of a U.S. passport is a privilege, not a guarantee. Citizens must undergo an application process, which may include a background check and some government financial records checks, to receive this travel document.
Many states, Massachusetts included, will report situations where a parent falls behind in making child support payments to the DOS who may then deny the noncustodial parent’s passport. Generally, that threshold is $2,500 in arrears.
The DOS started allowing the IRS to certify any seriously delinquent tax debts in 2018. Once certified, a U.S. citizen’s pending passport application could be denied and any travel document already issued seized or revoked.
Seriously delinquent tax debts and the post-certification process
As to what constitutes a serious delinquency, the IRS contends that any unpaid, enforceable amount exceeding $54,000 falls into this category.
The IRS must send you what the federal agency calls a CP508C Notice informing you of your tax debt once they determine it exists. Although the IRS immediately passes this delinquency information on to the DOS, the latter agency doesn’t immediately deny your passport application or revoke your existing travel document.
Existing debt certification protocol requires the IRS to pursue all possible legal seizures, known as levies, and administrative remedies before moving to request that the DOS deny an application or revoke an existing passport. DOS officials wait 90 days for you to contest the certification or to either reach a payment agreement with the IRS or pay off your debt in full.
Exceptions when IRS tax debt certification may not occur
The IRS does not submit seriously delinquent tax debts to the DOS in certain situations, including when taxpayers:
- Are active duty military, serving in a combat zone
- Reside in a disaster area as defined by the federal government
- Are victims of tax-oriented identity theft
- Have an open bankruptcy case
- Are facing economic hardships
- Have already entered into an IRS installment agreement
The above-referenced list is only a brief overview of the main categories to which alleged delinquent taxpayers who qualify for an exemption may belong.
IRS certifications aren’t always correctly reported, which means that the DOS may deny passport applications or revoke passports when they shouldn’t. Also, it’s important to know that denials or certifications that occur aren’t permanent. They are only intended to motivate a taxpayer to pay what the IRS determines is due.
While removing the flag on your passport isn’t likely to be instantaneous once you make amends with the IRS, settling with them is one step in the right direction to be able to travel freely for business or pleasure once again.