IRS Warns: Passports in Jeopardy if You Owe Back Taxes


The Internal Revenue Service is strongly encouraging taxpayers who are seriously behind on their taxes to pay what they owe or enter into a payment agreement with the IRS to avoid putting their passports in jeopardy.

This month, the IRS will begin implementation of new procedures affecting individuals with “seriously delinquent tax debts.” These new procedures implement provisions 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. See Notice 2018-1. The FAST Act also requires the State Department to deny their passport application or deny renewal of their passport. In some cases, the State Department may revoke their passport.

Taxpayers affected by this law are those with a seriously delinquent tax debt.  A taxpayer with a seriously delinquent tax debt is generally someone who owes the IRS more than $51,000 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 levy.


There are several ways taxpayers can avoid having the IRS notify the State Department of their seriously delinquent tax debt. They include 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
  • Having collection suspended because a taxpayer has made an innocent spouse election or requested innocent spouse relief

A passport won’t be at risk under this program for any taxpayer: 

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

For taxpayers serving in a combat zone who 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.

To avoid trouble, taxpayers who are behind on their tax obligations simply need to come forward and begin working with the IRS to handle their back taxes. Many taxpayers qualify for one of several relief programs.

All taxpayers have the right to request a payment agreement with the IRS by filing Form 9465.. Some taxpayers can use the online payment agreement to set up a monthly payment agreement for up to 72 months.  If you owe less than $50,000, this can be easy to do. For debts greater than $50,000, the IRS will be looking for detailed financial data, and it might be in your best interest to seek help from a tax professional who can navigate the minefield of requirements in this area.

Additionally, many taxpayers who are financially incapable of settling their debts can work out an agreement with the IRS to suspend collection – in some cases for several years. Having a debt handled like this is called assigning it to “currently not collectible” status. Seeking assistance from a licensed tax professional is highly recommended as this process is very complicated.

Some financially distressed taxpayers may qualify for an offer in compromise. This is an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer’s liabilities for less than the full amount owed. This can be a long and drawn out process, with no guarantees of success. The IRS likes to promote it because the taxpayer is usually required to send money in with the Offer as a deposit, and the IRS gets to keep the money even if the Offer is rejected. The IRS looks at taxpayers' finances in great detail to determine the their ability to pay. To help determine eligibility, use the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier, a free online tool available on


William D. Truax and his friendly team of Enrolled Agents (EAs) and licensed tax preparers have been helping individuals and business handle back taxes for over 30 years. They understand how the tax system works and offer a full spectrum of financial services to help ensure the IRS doesn’t come knocking.

In addition, Mr. Truax is a member of the Bar of the United States Tax Court – a privilege very few EAs are granted. He is also a fellow and Accredited Tax Advisor of the National Association of Tax Professionals and a member of the National Association of Enrolled Agents.

For more information, please visit or click below to schedule a free consultation today