Don’t let passing on a port of call happen to you

March 24, 2017 by Jean Lee Scherkey, EA
Passport with Denied stamped across it

Just like Punxsutawney Phil and Yogi Bear, your senses are re-awakening from winter’s hibernation, and your toes are tapping to the sounds of impending spring and summer adventures. The sunscreen is packed and you are waiting in line to board that plane, train or boat to take you to that exotic locale when the unimaginable happens. You discover the State Department has revoked your passport, compliments of the IRS!

Contained in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015 is a provision that allows the IRS to request the State Department to revoke a currently active passport, or deny the passport application of a U.S. taxpayer with severely delinquent tax debt. The FAST Act defines a seriously delinquent tax debt as:

  • A tax debt which has been assessed, AND
  • That is greater than $50,000 (indexed yearly for inflation), AND
  • Where the IRS has filed a tax lien and the taxpayer’s rights to dispute have been exhausted or lapsed, OR
  • Where a levy has been issued
There are some situations where the IRS should refrain from revoking or denying a passport. If a taxpayer is currently complying with an Installment Agreement, Offer in Compromise (also known as an OIC agreement), has filed a valid and timely Collection Due Process (CDP) hearing or filed for innocent spouse relief, the IRS generally will not request the State Department to revoke or deny the taxpayer’s passport.

Unlike the 90-day grace period the State Department will give to taxpayers applying for a passport so that a resolution with the IRS can be obtained, there is no grace period before the State Department will revoke a currently active passport. Once notified by the IRS, the State Department will immediately revoke a currently active passport. So, what happens if your passport is revoked while traveling outside the U.S.? Per the IRS website, the Secretary of State may place limits on the passport so that the only traveling the taxpayer may do is returning to the United States.

The IRS is required to notify taxpayers in writing if they have notified the State Department of a seriously delinquent tax debt. Generally, the taxpayer will receive a notice called a CP 508C. In the same respect, a taxpayer must receive written notification when their passport revocation is reversed. This reversal will be issued via a notice called a CP 508R. These notices are sent to the taxpayer’s last known current address. This is why it is crucial for taxpayers to notify the IRS when they have a change of address.

There are ways to reverse a denial or revocation. If a taxpayer proves the revocation/denial was issued in error or pays the debt in full, the revocation/denial will be reversed. Also, if a taxpayer enters into an Installment Agreement or OIC with the IRS, files a valid innocent spouse request, timely files a valid CDP hearing request, or if a settlement agreement is entered into with the Justice Department, a passport revocation/denial will be reversed. It is important to keep in mind that just because a taxpayer pays enough of a seriously delinquent tax debt so the amount owed is under $50,000, the taxpayer’s passport will remain revoked until one of the actions previously listed happens. To date, the IRS has not started to notify the State Department. Unless new legislation is approved by Congress and the president, it is just a matter of time before the IRS begins enforcement. Those who have seriously delinquent tax debt and are currently out of the country or plan to travel outside the U.S., should consider taking the steps needed to resolve this situation before it is too late.

This blog does not provide legal, financial, accounting, or tax advice. The content on this blog is “as is” and carries no warranties. TaxAudit does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, reliability, and completeness of the content of this blog. Content may become out of date as tax laws change. TaxAudit may, but has no obligation to monitor or respond to comments.