Revocation or denial of passport in cases of certain unpaid taxes


By law, the IRS will certify taxpayers with seriously delinquent tax debts to the State Department for specific actions regarding their passports. 

Generally, the State Department will not issue passports to taxpayers after receiving their delinquent debt certification from the IRS. The State Department may also deny a taxpayer’s passport application or revoke their current passport. 

If taxpayers with certified tax debts are overseas, the State Department may issue a limited-validity passport allowing the taxpayer to return directly to the United States.

What are seriously delinquent tax debts?

Seriously delinquent tax debts are legally enforceable, unpaid federal tax debt (including assessed penalties and interest) totaling more than $62,000 (adjusted yearly for inflation). These debts include U.S. individual income taxes, trust fund recovery penalties, business taxes for which taxpayers are personally liable for and other civil penalties. 

The IRS must have filed a Notice of Federal Tax Lien, and all administrative remedies under the law have lapsed, or have been exhausted or issued a levy in their efforts to collect these debts.

What tax debts aren’t certified to the State Department?

Seriously delinquent tax debts do not include:

  • Child support
  • Debts being timely paid through IRS-approved installment agreements,
  • Debts being timely paid with an offer in compromise accepted by the IRS,
  • Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Account (FBAR) penalties, 
  • Settlement agreements entered into with the Department of Justice,
  • Debts for which a collection due process hearing regarding a levy to collect the debt has been timely requested. or
  • Those suspended because of a request for innocent spouse relief.  

The IRS will not certify anyone as owing a seriously delinquent tax debt who: 

  • Has an account that's been determined to be “currently not collectible” due to hardship,
  • Has a request pending with the IRS for an:
    • installment agreement,
    • offer in compromise,
  • Has been identified as a victim of tax-related identity theft,
  • Is in bankruptcy,
  • Is located within a federally declared disaster area, or
  • Has an IRS accepted adjustment that will fully satisfy their tax debt.  

The IRS will also postpone certification for taxpayers serving in a designated combat zone or participating in a contingency operation.

How it works

Certification to the State Department

The IRS will send taxpayers a notice CP508C by regular mail to their last known address at the time it certifies seriously delinquent tax debt to the State Department. The IRS will not send a copy of the CP508C notice to a taxpayer’s power of attorney.

Information for taxpayers applying for or renewing passports that have certified tax debts with the State Department 

If a taxpayer with a certified tax debt applies for a passport or tries to renew their passport, the State Department will issue the taxpayer a letter and hold their application open for 90 days from the date of this letter allowing the taxpayer time to:

  • Enter a satisfactory payment arrangement with the IRS,
  • Make full payment of the tax debt, or
  • Resolve any erroneous certification issues.

If the taxpayer doesn’t make satisfactory payment arrangements with the IRS within 90 days of the date of the State Department’s denial letter, the taxpayer’s passport application will be denied and closed by the State Department. The taxpayer will then need to submit a new passport application. Additional guidance on responding to a State Department letter can be found at Respond to a letter or email.

Imminent travel plans – expedited reversal of certification request

Taxpayers with an open or pending passport application that have international travel plans within the next 45 days, should contact the IRS promptly to resolve their seriously delinquent debt. Note: For the IRS to help expedite reversal of a certification to the State Department, the taxpayer must have an open passport application or renewal request. Again, a taxpayer’s passport application only stays open for 90 days after the State Department issues the denial letter.  This allows time for the taxpayer to resolve their tax issues.  

When expedited, the IRS can generally shorten the 30 days processing time for decertification by 14 to 21 days. Taxpayers must inform the IRS that they have travel scheduled within 45 days or that they live abroad. The taxpayer must also provide the following documents to the IRS when requesting an expedited decertification:

  • Proof of travel. This can be a flight itinerary, hotel reservation, cruise ticket, international car insurance or other document showing location, the name of the traveler, and approximate date of travel or time-sensitive need for a passport.
  •  Copy of the letter from the State Department denying the taxpayer’s application or revoking their passport (dated within the last 90 days – an open application). The State Department has the sole authority to issue, limit, deny or revoke passports.

Reversal of certification. The IRS will send taxpayers a notice CP508R at the time it reverses their certification. The IRS will reverse a certification when:

  • The tax debt is fully satisfied or becomes legally unenforceable,
  • The tax debt is no longer seriously delinquent, or
  • The certification is erroneous.

The IRS will make this reversal within 30 days and provide notification to the State Department as soon as practicable.

The IRS will not reverse certification if a taxpayer’s request for a collection due process hearing or innocent spouse relief is on a debt that's not certified. Also, the IRS will not reverse the certification because the taxpayer pays the debt below the threshold.

Referral to revoke passport. The IRS may ask the State Department to exercise its authority to revoke a taxpayer’s passport. For example, the IRS may recommend revocation if the IRS had reversed a taxpayer’s certification because they promised to pay and failed to do so. The IRS may also ask the State Department to revoke a taxpayer’s passport if there are offshore activities or interests that could be used to resolve seriously delinquent debt, but the taxpayer does not utilize such resources.

Before the IRS sends a revocation referral to the State Department, the IRS will send taxpayers Letter 6152 asking them to call the IRS within 30 days to resolve their account to prevent this action.

Judicial review of certification. The State Department is held harmless in these matters and cannot be sued for any erroneous notification or failed decertification under the law.

If the IRS certified a taxpayer’s debt to the State Department, they could file suit in the U.S. Tax Court or a U.S. District Court to have the court determine whether the certification is erroneous, or whether the IRS failed to reverse the certification when it was required to do so. If the court determines the certification is erroneous or should be reversed, it can order the IRS to notify the State Department that the certification was in error.

The law doesn't give the court authority to release a lien or levy or award money damages in a suit to determine whether a certification is erroneous. Taxpayers are not required to file an administrative claim or otherwise contact the IRS to resolve the erroneous certification issue before filing suit in the U.S. Tax Court or a U.S. District Court.

What to do

Payment of taxes. Taxpayers who can't pay the full amount they owe, they can make alternative payment arrangements such as an Installment Agreement or an offer in compromise to have their certification reversed.

If a taxpayer disagrees with the tax amount or believes the certification was made in error, they should contact the phone numbers on notice CP508C:

If the taxpayer has already paid the tax debt, they must send proof of that payment to the address on the notice CP508C.

If the taxpayer recently filed their tax return for the current year and expect a refund, the IRS will apply the refund to the debt. If the refund is enough to satisfy the taxpayer’s seriously delinquent tax debt, the IRS will consider the account fully paid once the return and refund are processed.

Passport status. Taxpayers will be notified in writing by the State Department if their application for a U.S. passport has been denied, or their current passport revoked.

Taxpayers needing a U.S. passport to keep their jobs. Once the IRS certifies a taxpayer’s seriously delinquent tax debt to the State Department, the taxpayer must fully pay the balance or make alternative payment arrangements to have the certification reversed.