Government Contracts Legal Blog

Can the IRS Take Your Passport for Unpaid Taxes?

Posted by Joseph Whitcomb on Jan 15, 2018 2:27:00 PM
Joseph Whitcomb


On December 4th, 2015, the United States Congress passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Soon after, the legislation was signed into law by President Barack Obama. As is the case with many large transportation bills, this bill contained provisions that affected many unrelated areas of law.

Most notably, the FAST Act contained a tax provision that has major consequences for those who owe a lot money to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS): If you have seriously delinquent tax debt, the United States federal government may now be able confiscate your passport. Here, our top-rated Colorado tax law attorneys explain when tax debt can cost you your U.S. passport.

You can Lose Your Passport if You Have Seriously Delinquent Unpaid Taxes

Under federal regulations, the IRS can give the U.S. State Department authority to revoke or decline to issue a valid passport to people who have ‘severely delinquent unpaid taxes.’ To qualify as a person with serious tax debt, your case must meet the following two requirements:

  • You have had an IRS levy or tax lien placed against you or your property; and
  • You currently owe more than $50,000 to the U.S. Treasury in unpaid taxes.

If you have received a notice from the IRS that states that a levy or tax lien has been (or will soon be) issued against you, it is imperative that you consult with a qualified Denver tax lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer will be able to help you protect your passport, and your financial interests.

How to Save Your Passport

If you are at risk of losing your United States passport for unpaid taxes, it is normal to feel frustrated, confused, and intimidated. The good news is that there are steps that you can take to have your passport protected or reinstated. Specifically, you should do one of the following five things:

  • Pay your delinquent taxes in full, thereby satisfying any outstanding obligations to the IRS;
  • Negotiate with the IRS and reach a settlement offer for your remaining tax debt;
  • Negotiate with the IRS and come up with an installment plan to satisfy your tax debt over time;
  • File an application for a due process hearing; or
  • File an application for innocent spouse relief.

Beyond these reasons, the U.S. State Department also has special authority to make exceptions and to issue passports to people facing emergency circumstances. Those are only issued on a case-by-case basis, however, and cannot necessarily be relied upon. The best thing you can do is to take action to get your tax problem fixed.

Speak to a Tax Lawyer Today

At Whitcomb, Selinsky, McAuliffe, PC, our Colorado tax attorneys are standing by, ready to protect your rights. If you are behind on your taxes, and you need legal advice, please do not hesitate to contact us today at (866) 476-4558 to schedule your confidential consultation. From our primary office in Denver, we represent individuals and companies throughout Colorado, including in Jefferson County and Adams County.

Contact One of Our Attorneys

Topics: Tax Law

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