Important Passport Ramifications for Unpaid Federal Taxes


    Beginning in 2018, the IRS will be required to notify the U.S. State Department of taxpayers that have a “seriously delinquent tax debt.”  A tax debt is seriously delinquent if the person’s federal tax debt, including interest and penalties, is more than $50,000.  The IRS’ notification to the State Department could result in the State Department revoking the taxpayer’s passport, or denying the issuance or renewal of their passport. 

    Section 7345 – Delinquent taxpayer’s passport at risk

    The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015 added new Internal Revenue Code Section 7345, requiring the IRS to notify the State Department (send a “certification”) when a taxpayer owes more than $50,000 (now indexed at $51,000) in legally enforceable federal tax debt, including interest and penalties.  For the debt to be seriously delinquent, either: 

    • Notice of federal tax lien must have been filed and all administrative remedies under IRC § 6320 must have lapsed or been exhausted; or
    • A levy must have been issued.

    Following certification to the State Department by the IRS that a taxpayer has seriously delinquent tax debt, the State Department has the authority to do one of the following:

    • Revoke a U.S. passport;
    • Refuse to issue or renew a U.S. passport; or 
    • Prior to revocation, limit the passport to return travel to the U.S., or issue a limited passport that only permits return travel to the U.S.

    The State Department will not grant any grace period prior to revoking a passport, although it will grant a grace period of 90 days before denying the issuance or renewal of a passport to allow for the taxpayer to pay the tax, resolve any erroneous certification issues, or arrange to pay the tax.

    Tax debt is not treated as seriously delinquent tax debt where the federal tax debt is being paid off in a timely manner pursuant to an arrangement with the IRS, or for which collection is suspended. The IRS will postpone certification for individuals who are serving in a combat zone, or are participating in contingency operations.

    The IRS will mail Notice CP508C, “Notice of certification of your seriously delinquent federal tax debt to the State Department,” to a taxpayer impacted by this provision.  The Notice will be mailed to the individual’s last known address.  The IRS will mail Notice CP508R if the certification is eventually reversed.  

    The IRS will notify the State Department to cancel this certification only when the entire federal tax debt is satisfied.  A taxpayer who believes that a certification is erroneous may file suit in the U.S. Tax Court or U.S. District Court.  No notice to the IRS is required before filing a suit. 

    What does CohnReznick think?

    Taxpayers who owe the IRS more than $51,000 should take note of possible restrictions on their travel and consider making tax payment arrangements accordingly. It is expected that the passport ramifications discussed above will begin in earnest very soon.


    For more information, please contact Neil Becourtney, Partner, at or 732-380-8678. 

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