Can the IRS Prevent You from Traveling? Understanding Passport Revocation and Denial

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) possesses the authority to certify seriously delinquent taxpayers to the State Department, potentially leading to passport restrictions or revocation. This article delves into the circumstances under which the IRS can take such actions, the consequences for affected individuals, and the available options for resolving the situation.

Understanding Seriously Delinquent Tax Debts

The IRS classifies tax debts exceeding $62,000 (adjusted annually for inflation) as “seriously delinquent.” These debts include unpaid federal income taxes, trust fund recovery penalties, business taxes for which individuals are personally liable, and other civil penalties.

Conditions for IRS Certification to the State Department

The IRS certifies seriously delinquent tax debts to the State Department when:

  • A Notice of Federal Tax Lien has been filed
  • All administrative remedies have been exhausted or lapsed
  • A levy has been issued in an attempt to collect the debt

Consequences of IRS Certification

Upon receiving certification from the IRS, the State Department may:

  • Deny passport applications
  • Revoke existing passports
  • Issue limited-validity passports for taxpayers to return to the United States

Exceptions to IRS Certification

The IRS does not certify tax debts that fall under the following categories:

  • Child support
  • Debts being paid through approved installment agreements
  • Debts covered by accepted offers in compromise
  • Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Account (FBAR) penalties
  • Settlement agreements with the Department of Justice
  • Debts under collection due process hearing
  • Debts suspended due to innocent spouse relief requests

Process for IRS Certification

The IRS sends a notice (CP508C) to the taxpayer’s last known address before certifying a seriously delinquent tax debt to the State Department. This notice provides information about the debt and the potential consequences.

Options for Taxpayers with Certified Debts

Taxpayers with certified tax debts can take the following actions:

  • Enter a payment arrangement: Make satisfactory payments to the IRS to resolve the debt.
  • Pay the debt in full: Settle the outstanding balance to clear the certification.
  • Dispute the certification: Contact the IRS to address any errors or inaccuracies in the certification.

Expedited Reversal of Certification for Imminent Travel

Taxpayers with certified debts who have urgent travel plans within 45 days can request an expedited reversal of certification from the IRS. To qualify, they must provide proof of travel and a copy of the State Department’s denial letter.

Reversal of Certification

The IRS reverses certification when:

  • The tax debt is fully satisfied or becomes legally unenforceable
  • The tax debt is no longer seriously delinquent
  • The certification was erroneous

Referral to Revoke Passport

In certain cases, the IRS may recommend that the State Department revoke a taxpayer’s passport, such as when a taxpayer fails to fulfill payment promises or has offshore assets that could be used to resolve the debt.

Judicial Review of Certification

Taxpayers can file suit in U.S. Tax Court or U.S. District Court to challenge erroneous certifications or the IRS’s failure to reverse certifications.

Understanding the circumstances and consequences of IRS certification is crucial for taxpayers with seriously delinquent tax debts. By taking proactive steps to resolve their debts or dispute erroneous certifications, individuals can avoid passport restrictions and maintain their ability to travel freely.

Can the IRS Take Your Passport if You Owe Back Taxes?


Can I leave the U.S. if I owe taxes?

Owing taxes to the IRS while living abroad can put you at risk of losing your U.S. passport. If owe taxes to the U.S. but live abroad, you might not be able to return to the U.S. until you settle your debt with the IRS. In fact, your U.S. passport might be revoked, preventing you from being able to travel anywhere.

Will my passport be denied if I owe taxes?

If the Secretary of the Treasury informs us that you have seriously delinquent tax debt, we cannot issue a U.S. passport to you. In addition, we may revoke your current U.S. passport. Seriously delinquent tax debt is your unpaid, legally enforceable federal tax debt (includes interest and penalties).

Can the IRS go after you in another country?

Yes. Regardless of where you live, the IRS can file a lien against your assets regardless if the assets are located in the US or in a foreign country. Just as long as you own the assets, they are subject to levy.

What can the IRS do to you?

The IRS may also levy assets such as your wages, bank accounts, Social Security benefits, and retirement income. In addition, the IRS will apply future federal tax refunds that you are due, to offset the amount you owe. Any state income tax refunds you are owed may also be applied to your liability.

What happens if I don’t pay my taxes?

If you don’t do anything about your balance, the IRS will eventually notify the State Department. Then, the State Department can restrict your international travel and your passport renewal. When you set up an agreement with the IRS, the IRS will “decertify” you and notify the State Department within 30 days.

Can I deduct travel expenses if I have no tax home?

You are an itinerant and have no tax home. If you (and your family) don’t live at your tax home (defined earlier), you can’t deduct the cost of traveling between your tax home and your family home. You also can’t deduct the cost of meals and lodging while at your tax home. See Example 1, later.

Can I deduct travel expenses if I travel abroad?

Because only 5/21 (less than 25%) of your total time abroad was for nonbusiness activities, you can deduct as travel expenses what it would have cost you to make the trip if you hadn’t engaged in any nonbusiness activity.

Does my employer pay if I travel away from home?

On days that you travel away from home on business, your employer designates $50 a day of your salary as paid to reimburse your travel expenses. Because your employer would pay your monthly salary whether or not you were traveling away from home, the arrangement is a nonaccountable plan.

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