Owing Back Taxes Could Affect Passport Renewal

Owing Back Taxes Could Affect Passport Renewal

Last month, individuals with “seriously delinquent tax debts” became subject to a new set of provisions courtesy of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, signed into law in December 2015.

The FAST Act requires the IRS to notify the State Department of taxpayers the IRS has certified as owing a seriously delinquent tax debt and also requires the State Department to deny their passport application or deny renewal of their passport. In certain instances, the State Department may revoke their passport.

Taxpayers affected by this law are those with a seriously delinquent tax debt, generally, an individual who owes the IRS more than $51,000 (the 2018 inflation-adjusted amount) in back taxes, penalties and interest for which the IRS has filed a notice of federal tax lien, and the period to challenge it has expired, or the IRS has issued a notice of levy.

Taxpayers can avoid having the IRS notify the State Department of their seriously delinquent tax debt by doing the following:

  • Paying the tax debt in full,
  • Paying the tax debt timely under an approved installment agreement,
  • Paying the tax debt timely under an accepted offer in compromise,
  • Paying the tax debt timely under the terms of a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice,
  • Having requested or have a pending collection due process appeal with a levy, or
  • Having collection suspended because a taxpayer has made an innocent spouse claim or requested innocent spouse relief.

However, a taxpayer’s passport won’t be at risk under this program if an individual:

  • Is in bankruptcy,
  • Is identified by the IRS as a victim of tax-related identity theft,
  • Has an account that the IRS has determined is currently not collectible due to hardship,
  • Is located within a federally declared disaster area,
  • Has a request pending with the IRS for an installment agreement,
  • Has a pending offer in compromise with the IRS,
  • Has an IRS accepted adjustment that will satisfy the debt in full.

For taxpayers serving in a combat zone, and who also owe a seriously delinquent tax debt, the IRS postpones notifying the State Department and the individual’s passport is not subject to denial during this time.

Taxpayers who are behind on their tax obligations should come forward and pay what they owe or enter into a payment plan with the IRS. They may qualify for one of several relief programs, including the following:

  • Taxpayers can request a payment agreement with the IRS by filing Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request. Taxpayers can download this form from IRS.gov and mail it along with a tax return, bill or notice. Some taxpayers may be eligible to use the online payment agreement to set up a monthly payment agreement for up to 72 months.
  • Financially distressed taxpayers may qualify for an offer in compromise, an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer’s tax liabilities for less than the full amount owed. The IRS looks at the taxpayer’s income and assets to determine the taxpayer’s ability to pay.

If you owe back taxes and are worried your passport could be revoked because of unpaid taxes, please contact our office.