If you owe enough in delinquent American federal taxes, the U.S. government can take your passport.
The Internal Revenue Service certifies “seriously delinquent” tax debt to the U.S. State Department. This is an individual’s unpaid, legally enforceable federal tax debt, including interest and penalties, that totals more than $55,000 (that amount is adjusted yearly for inflation).
The State Department generally will not issue a passport to you after receiving certification from the IRS, denying your passport application or revoking your current passport. If you’re overseas, the State Department may issue you a limited validity passport good only for direct return to the United States.
How you’re informed
The IRS will send you Notice CP508C when it certifies your to the State Department. (The IRS will send the notice by regular mail to your last known address. Your power of attorney will not receive a copy of the notice.)
Before denying a passport, the State Department will hold your application for 90 days to allow you to resolve incorrect certification issues, or to make full payment or arrange a payment plan or Offer in Compromise with the IRS.
The IRS may also ask the State Department to revoke your passport if you promise to pay then fail to – or if could use offshore activities or interests to resolve your debt but choose not to. Before doing so, the IRS will send you Letter 6152 asking you to call the IRS within 30 days to resolve your account to prevent this action.
If you’re leaving soon for international travel, the IRS will expedite reversal of your certification to the State Department, generally from 30 days to as few as nine. You’ll need to inform the IRS that you have travel scheduled within 45 days or that you live abroad – and you must provide proof of travel showing location and approximate date of travel or time-sensitive need for a passport and a copy of the letter from State denying your passport application or revoking your passport.
You can file suit in the U.S. Tax Court or a U.S. District Court to have the court determine whether the certification is erroneous, or whether the IRS failed to reverse the certification when it was required to do so. If the court sides with you, it can order the IRS to notify the State Department that the certification was incorrect.
The IRS will send you Notice CP508R when it reverses certification. This can occur when you pay off your tax debt or becomes legally unenforceable, it’s no longer seriously delinquent or the certification is determined to be erroneous. The IRS will make this reversal within 30 days and notify the State Department.
The IRS will not reverse certification if your request for a collection due process hearing or innocent spouse relief is on a debt that’s not certified. The agency also won’t reverse the certification because you pay the debt below the threshold.
Can you avoid losing your passport for U.S. tax debt?
Not all debt triggers this problem, though – and in fact, you have several options for avoiding this situation.
The Internal Revenue Service certifies what it calls “seriously delinquent” tax debt to the U.S. State Department. This is an individual’s unpaid, legally enforceable federal tax debt, including interest and penalties, that totals more than $55,000 (that amount is adjusted yearly for inflation). The debt can include U.S. individual income taxes, Trust Fund Recovery Penalties, business taxes for which you’re liable and other civil penalties.
The State Department may deny your passport application or revoke your current passport. If you’re overseas, the State Department may issue you a limited validity passport good only for direct return to the United States.
The IRS does not automatically send all debt to the State Department, however.
Some tax debt isn’t even included in seriously delinquent tax debt – significantly, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Account (FBAR) penalty.
Also not included:
· Tax debts being paid timely with an IRS-approved installment agreement or with an Offer in Compromise accepted by the IRS or a settlement agreement entered with the U.S. Justice Department;
· debts for which a collection due process hearing is timely requested regarding a levy to collect;
· debt for which collection has been suspended because a request for innocent spouse relief has been made.
· debts of those who have a request pending with the IRS for an installment agreement or with a pending Offer in Compromise or with whom the IRS has accepted an adjustment that will satisfy the debt in full.
There are still other ways out of the passport snare. The IRS will not certify anyone as owing a seriously delinquent tax debt who’s in bankruptcy; who’s identified by the IRS as a victim of tax-related identity theft; whose account the IRS has determined is not collectible due to hardship; or who’s within a federally declared disaster area.
The IRS will also postpone certification while an individual is serving in a designated combat zone or participating in a contingency operation.
Have a question? Contact Alicea Castellanos, Global Taxes LLC.
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