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IRS can take your passport if you have high tax debt

Delinquent tax debt can be a heavy burden for you to bear. The IRS can put a lien on your home or garnish your wages. They can often do this automatically or without the use of a court order. They can also revoke your passport.

If you have what the IRS calls “seriously delinquent tax debt,” the IRS can ask the state department to revoke your passport or deny an application or renewal. Until you can satisfy your debt, you will not be able to use your passport for international travel.

The FAST Act

In 2015, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act gave the State Department the ability to revoke passports from anyone with seriously delinquent tax debt. In 2019, the seriously delinquent limit is $52,000. Anyone who meets this threshold is in danger of losing their ability to travel internationally.

Making sure you don’t lose your passport

When the IRS plans to have the State Department revoke your passport, they send you a letter stating their intent. You have 30 days to respond before they start the process. If you receive the letter, you have a few options to take your name off the list of seriously delinquent taxpayers:

  • Pay your debt off in full – This is the simplest fix, but probably not feasible for most with high tax debt.
  • Work with the IRS – The IRS has options to pay off your debt in installments. Or if you can prove that you don’t make enough money to pay off the debt quickly, you can negotiate an offer in compromise or an adjustment to the balance. If you have set up a negotiation, the IRS will give you your passport back.
  • Prove a financial hardship – If you can prove to the IRS that you have no way of paying off the debt, they can switch you to Not Collectible status. This status takes you off the seriously delinquent list. The IRS will also not consider you as seriously delinquent if you file for bankruptcy.

Working with the IRS can be complex. Make sure that you get legal advice from a tax attorney if you need to negotiate a deal.

Having your passport revoked can interfere with plans you have for international travel. Whether you have a non-refundable vacation booked, or you have family that you intend to visit outside of the country, you will need your passport to travel.

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