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Can Your Passport Be Denied If You Owe Taxes?

US passport and world travel map
By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on July 09, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Imagine having your passport revoked for failing to pay your federal income taxes. As surprising as it sounds, Congress granted the IRS the right to do just that in 2015.

Starting in February of 2018, the Agency has been sending the names of over 362,000 individuals to the State Department, requesting that they be denied a passport, or passport renewal, until their delinquent taxes totaling at least $51,000 are paid. Violators must resolve their tax issues before applying for a passport. If not, their application will be rejected. For those already holding passports, theirs will not be renewed or may possibly be revoked, until payment is made.

Did the IRS Hit the Right Pressure Point?

So far, this method has proven to be somewhat successful. According to the Wall Street Journal, at least one person has paid $1 million in overdue taxes to avoid this penalty, and at least 220 people have paid a total of $11.5 million to avoid this fate. In addition, 14,000 people have begun the process of creating an installment agreement to pay back their taxes.

And in case you are wondering what happens if you are outside of the country already, the IRS has kindly allowed re-entry into the United States with a limited passport, presumably to come settle tax debt. The IRS has carved out a few other exceptions from this new rule, most notably for:

  • Financially distressed taxpayers
  • Individuals who have applied for or agreed to a payment plan to the IRS
  • People who are bankrupt
  • Victims of tax-related identity theft
  • People living in a federally-declared disaster area

Am I Already Blacklisted?

If you owe back taxes you may wondering if your name has already been reported by the IRS to the State Department. The IRS is required to inform you in writing if they are requesting action be taken against your passport at the same time they make that request to the State Department. You should receive written notice so long as the IRS knows how to find you with a letter.

If you are concerned that you owe back taxes and have not been properly notified, or if you are looking for help to be rid of your tax debt, contact a tax professional today. Your future travel plans may depend on it.

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