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The IRS Is Taking Passports From Some People

The IRS Is Taking Passports From Some People
Scott Dylan

Failing to pay your taxes could mean that you’ll lose your right to travel abroad. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is cracking down on people who are late with their tax payments by going after passports.

Can the IRS really take your passport?

Yes. The IRS really can call for your passport to be revoked. However, you could still be in trouble even if it looks like your passport status has remained untouched. People with existing passports may not be able to renew those passports when the time comes if they owe taxes. Just how much do you have to owe to get on the list? A person owing $51,000 or more is usually considered to be seriously delinquent.

The IRS won’t actually be the agency that prohibits you from getting a passport if you owe tax payments. The IRS is simply reporting your delinquent status to the State Department. The good news is that the IRS does have some options that could help you to avoid losing passport privileges.

Several resources are available if you are having trouble catching up with tax payments. The IRS often works with delinquent payers to create payment plans. You could also seek assistance outside of the IRS to catch up on payments. There are many groups and organizations throughout the country that work with people who are having trouble making tax payments.

What if the reason you’re having tax issues is beyond your control?

There’s a chance that your tax information is a mess because something like fraud has occurred, you’re the victim of a natural disaster or you’re going through bankruptcy. The good news is that the IRS won’t report you if your issues are resulting from one of these unfortunate exceptions.

How will you know if the IRS is coming after your passport?

You will receive a notice from the IRS regarding your unpaid tax bill if you fall into the passport danger zone. Unfortunately, your name may be passed on to the State Department if you don’t do anything to take care of the situation.

One scary possibility is that the State Department could actually revoke your passport while you’re in another country. While that would cause a headache, it doesn’t mean that you will be banned from coming home. The State Department will likely issue you a limited passport that will allow you to return to the United States if you get into this situation.

[Image Source: iStock]

View Comments (11)


  1. Dublin_rfk

    March 18, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    51K delinquent? THEY lose one year of your filing and you can easily many times that with interest and penalties. Then the fun begins!

  2. FlyingNone

    March 18, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    I would be curious to know how many people have their passports revoked every year.

  3. Gigantor

    March 19, 2019 at 5:23 am

    Best way to deal with this issue… simply renounce US citizenship.

  4. Tino

    March 20, 2019 at 5:31 am

    Renounce your US citizenship and THEN see what the IRS does to your tax liability. They get to take a huge exit tax if you do that, but you are probably the tax expert, not me.

  5. MitchR

    March 20, 2019 at 6:00 am

    I deal with clients in this situation. It is an attention getting advice. If you have a big tax bill and you are working with them they typically won’t do this. If you ignore them, or put them off, they will do what it takes to re focus your attention.

  6. sfcharles1

    March 20, 2019 at 6:42 am

    If you renounce your citizenship, the IRS gets another go at your assets, and can take up to 80% of your entire monetary worth. Thank the republicans when they held the senate, the house, and the presidency…under George Bush, Jr. I mean him no disrespect, but wow did they scr#w anyone who wants to leave.

  7. jctech

    March 20, 2019 at 7:31 am

    #Gigantor….. or you could pay your taxes

  8. azmojo

    March 20, 2019 at 8:28 am

    Of course, the best way to get the taxes repaid is to inhibit someone from earning money that requires travelling abroad…

  9. KimchiExpress

    March 20, 2019 at 9:36 am

    IN US Embassies abroad there is a sign next to the window where you renounce your US Citizenship. It reads some thing like “If you renounce your US citizenship for tax reasons you will still owe US taxes.”

  10. IsleSeat

    March 21, 2019 at 8:30 am

    and even expats, who left with their passports to live elsewhere get taxed on their overseas property sales.

  11. bostontraveler

    March 21, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    @jctech @azmojo Sounds so reasonable, right? It’s actually a terrible piece of legislation that the IRS is currently being sued for.

    A lot of people think- well, if someone owes 50k then too bad, they should lose their passports! Well, here’s where the nasty part comes in.

    Let’s say the IRS determines you had a far smaller liability from several years ago. Add in compound penalties and interest and you could easily get to that number.
    AND there is no immediate recourse. And what if it is a mistake on the IRS’ fault? They can’t find your filing? They miscalculate? You’ll be stuck until you can resolve the issue. And it won’t be in a week or a month as we all know.

    Secondly, in typical America-centric thinking, what the IRS forgot to consider is that there are 8 million US citizens living and working abroad. For many of those people their only legal form of identification is their passport. Cancelling their passport is more than just a temporary inconvenience- they have no way to prove their identity.

    The US is so out of whack sometimes. It’s like we are subjects.

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