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Could the IRS Take Your Passport?

Unpaid taxes? Your passport might be at risk. Due to a new law expanding the Internal Revenue Service's power over your passport, there are things that you need to know if you owe the IRS and are planning to travel in the near future. IRC § 7345, enacted under the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, authorizes the IRS to notify the State Department of seriously delinquent tax debt in a process called "certification." Once the debt certification is confirmed and accepted, the State Department will halt a passport application you have started or will revoke an active passport in your possession.

"Will I lose passport privileges if I owe the IRS anything?" No. Only individuals who have seriously delinquent tax debt, meaning your tax debt totals more than $50,000 (including interest and penalties) and the IRS has filed a notice of federal tax lien, are issued certifications. This is often the threshold after which the IRS begins seizing property with a lien or levy. If you are at risk of seriously delinquent tax debt, the IRS will send you a notice in the mail, identifying their plan to take action against your passport. If you need to know how much you owe, you may call the individual taxpayers line at 1-800-829-1040, or use the IRS online tool to view your tax account. Business taxpayers can call 1-800-829-4933, and taxpayers currently overseas can call 267-941-1000. (As a side note: If you are notified that your passport will be revoked while you are out of the country, the State Department may issue a limited validity passport for one direct return trip to the United States.)

Before you get too discouraged, there are things that you can do. While paying your tax bill in full immediately is the fastest solution, the second-best way to getting yourself back on the passport track is to contact the IRS to set up satisfactory payment arrangements. Resources such as 5 Good Solutions When You Can't Pay Your Taxes can help you learn more about an IRS payment plan and other tax handling options. Once approved, the IRS will contact the State Department within 30 days, which will then allow you to continue your passport application or to get your passport back. Please visit the IRS website for more information about the passport revocation or denial process and for actions you can take to prevent and respond like an IRS payment plan.