The government tries to find ways to prompt its citizens to pay pending taxes. Since 2018, one of the ways the IRS has recouped money owed to them is by restricting passport privileges. However, not all tax debt qualifies for passport denial.

Only when you have what the government considers a severe delinquent tax debt can the IRS have a legal ground to deny your passport application and renewal. In this post, we explain what delinquent tax debt is and the steps to take if your passport is restricted due to severe outstanding tax debt.

What qualifies as a severe delinquent tax debt?

According to the IRS, severe delinquent tax is legal, enforceable tax debt adding up to more than $55,000 that remains unpaid after the IRS pursues all collection methods, including levies, to obtain the tax debt.

If your back taxes amount to more than $55,000, the IRS, through the State Department, has the right to block your passport renewal and application or revoke your passport if it’s active.

Usually, this occurs, the IRS will send you a CP508C Notice. This letter explains the details of the tax debt and notifies you to pay within 90 days or face passport restrictions. If you clear your delinquent tax debt within the allocated period, the IRS won’t impose the passport restriction.

Exceptions to serious delinquent tax debt

If your debt falls in any one of these categories, the IRS will not consider your tax debt as delinquent:

  • Debt being paid on time that is part of an IRS-approved installment agreement
  • Debt being paid on time that is part of an offer in compromise approved by the IRS
  • Debt collection currently suspended due to a request for innocent spouse relief
  • Debt that is part of a collection due process hearing that has been requested as part of innocent spouse relief
  • Debt suspended due to a hearing process concerning a levy to recoup the debt

Other cases when the IRS will not certify your debt as severely delinquent is if you’re:

  • Bankrupt
  • Situated within an area declared a federal disaster
  • A victim of tax identity theft
  • Under hardship and your account is not collectible
  • Waiting for a pending IRS offer in compromise
  • Waiting for a pending request for an installment agreement with the IRS
  • In possession of an IRS-accepted adjustment that will clear the debt fully

If you believe the IRS made a mistake sending you the tax debt notice, get in touch with them through the number on your notice. You may need to send proof of your already paid taxes to address on the notice.

After you sort out your delinquent tax debt, the IRS reverses the notice and notifies the state department within 30 days.