When you’re struggling against the IRS, you have a lot to deal with, even without having a passport revoked by the IRS.
Your fears about wage garnishments, levies, and tax liens sit with you and can leave a pit in your stomach. These worst-case scenarios permeate your daily life and can permanently affect the future for you and your family.
The IRS is not here to mess around; they mean serious business.
We all know about tax liens and wage garnishment; these are the big threats that loom at the end of the tax debt road. And that’s for good reason! These are seriously worst-case scenarios when it comes to tax debt, which is why we work hard to ensure our clients never reach that point.
However, beyond those big consequences, many of our clients don’t know every method the IRS can take to crack down on you if you haven’t paid your taxes. And some of these other consequences are serious. Like today’s example:
The IRS can legally revoke your passport.
Yes. The IRS can remove your international travel privileges if you have serious, delinquent debt. Think of it like getting grounded for not paying your taxes.
If you haven’t already heard about this, we don’t blame you. This specific tax debt consequence has only been around since 2018. Specifically, that’s when the IRS officially partnered with the State Department (the government organization that issues passports) to place travel restrictions on delinquent taxpayers.
But since 2018, if you have significant tax debt, the IRS can take away your passport—or prevent you from getting one in the first place.
How does the IRS decide to revoke your passport, you ask? Well, there are a few qualifications.
The plus side is that your passport revocation won’t be a surprise; you’ll be acutely aware you’re in serious tax debt with the IRS. Nonetheless, this is the cherry on top of a tax debt sundae, and you don’t want to reach this point at all.
Just because you technically qualify doesn’t mean you’re in danger of your passport being taken. You won’t be at risk in these situations:
A quick caveat: Any situation that might exclude you from having your passport privileges taken away needs to be one the IRS is aware of. After all, you won’t determine you’re experiencing “financial hardship”; the IRS will.
The IRS is nothing if not communicative, so just like a wage garnishment won’t come as a surprise if you’re paying attention to your mail, neither will your passport revocation.
Specifically, the first step to your passport being revoked or denied is that the IRS will send you a letter (Letter 6152) requesting you call within 30 days to prevent that action. After that time has lapsed, the IRS will send a letter to the State Department stating they have certified your seriously delinquent tax debt. From there, the State Department can revoke your passport. They’ll notify you in writing if they do.
If you’re abroad when your passport is revoked, the State Department may issue a limited validity passport that is only good for getting you back into the U.S.
The IRS won’t reverse their certification just because you pay your debt down below the threshold, but there are ways to get your passport back!
The first and best way to get your passport back, or avoid it being taken from you in the first place, is by setting up some sort of agreement with the IRS to get squared away on your tax debt.
Depending on your tax debt total and your financial situation, you may be able to set up an installment agreement to pay your debt over time or the IRS may accept an offer in compromise. And there are even more options on the table (which you can find on the IRS’s website) to get your passport back!
Ignoring the IRS is the worst way to approach tax debt. When you do, you give the IRS free range to take whatever collection actions they wish.
The IRS may have control over your taxes, but they shouldn’t have control over your freedom. Get help, get your passport back, and get ungrounded—for good.
Sign up for our newsletter and be the first to find out when exciting IRS news happens. Yes, exciting. We're really into taxes.