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Am I at Risk of Losing My Passport Because of IRS Tax Debts?

Steven WalkerJuly 4, 2024

The federal government can revoke or deny your U.S. passport if you owe a seriously delinquent tax debt. Afterwards, having your passport reinstated can become difficult. This article discusses the basics of when and how the federal government can revoke your passport and possible remedies. If the government revoked your passport due to a seriously delinquent tax debt and are worried about having your passport revoked, consider contacting competent tax counsel to assist.

When can the IRS Recommend that the State Department Revoke Deny, or Limit your Passport?

When an individual taxpayer owes an unpaid federal tax debt (including assessed penalties and interest)[1] totaling more than $62,000 (adjusted yearly for inflation) as of 2024, the IRS has the authority to certify the taxpayer as owing a “seriously delinquent tax debt” and then recommend that the State Department revoke, deny or limit the taxpayer’s passport.[2]

IRS Certification of Taxpayer Owing “Seriously Delinquent Tax Debt”

The IRS will certify an individual as owing a “seriously delinquent tax debt” if the following three conditions are satisfied:

  1. The individual taxpayer was assessed a legally enforceable unpaid federal tax debt.[3]
  2. As of 2024, the debt (including tax, interest and penalties)[4] is over $62,000 (adjusted yearly for inflation).[5]
  3. Either: (a) a Notice of Federal Tax Lien has been filed and all administrative remedies under I.R.C. § 6320 have lapsed or been exhausted; or (b) IRS has issued a levy.[6]

These rules are subject to many mandatory or discretionary exceptions depending on each case.[7] For instance, the law excludes certain debts timely paid under an IRS installment agreement or pursuant to an offer in compromise with the IRS.[8] There are other exceptions as well[9] and taxpayers should consult with experienced professionals to determine if any apply. One of the best ways potentially to avoid IRS certification is for a taxpayer to make sure that the debt stays below the statutory amount.

IRS Recommendation Process

Once the IRS has identified a taxpayer’s debt as a certified seriously delinquent tax debt, the IRS provides taxpayer certifications systematically to the State Department on a weekly basis.[10] At this point, if the taxpayer attempts to apply for or renew a passport, the State Department will hold the application for 90 days to give the taxpayer the chance to enter into an agreement with the IRS, fully pay the tax debt, or resolve any potential errors regarding certification.[11]

The IRS is also required to mail a Notice CP508C, “Notice of Certification of Your Seriously Delinquent Federal Tax Debt to the State Department” to the taxpayer’s last known address.[12]  This notice offers the taxpayer the ability to contact the IRS via a toll-free number to resolve the case.[13] If the taxpayer and the IRS cannot resolve the case, then the taxpayer may challenge certification in either Tax Court or the appropriate U.S. District Court.[14]

After certification and if the taxpayer and the IRS are not able to resolve the case, the IRS can choose to recommend revocation.[15] In this case, first the IRS will issue a Letter 6152, “Notice of Intent to Request U.S. Department of State Revoke Your Passport.”[16] This letter gives the taxpayer 30 days to contact the IRS and resolve the issue (or 90 days if the letter is mailed outside the US).[17] Once the IRS sends its recommendation to revoke an individual’s passport, the final decision is at the State Department’s discretion.[18] The State Department may still issue a passport if it determines there are compelling emergency circumstances or humanitarian reasons but any issuance will not affect certification status.[19]

How do I get Decertified?

If the IRS has properly certified a taxpayer, then it must decertify if one of the three following situations occur:[20]

  1. The taxpayer fully satisfies the tax debt.[21]
  2. The debt becomes legally unenforceable (usually because the statutory collection period has expired).[22]
  3. The taxpayer meets a statutory or discretionary exclusion which causes the debt to be decertified.[23]

The IRS also has the discretion to decertify for other reasons.[24] One important point is that paying the debt below the statutory amount ($62,000 in 2024) will not reverse a certification.[25]

After decertification, the IRS will notify the taxpayer and the State Department.[26] Decertified taxpayers should expect to receive Notice CP508R, “Reversal of Notice of Certification of Your Seriously Delinquent Federal Tax Debt to the State Department.”[27] The IRS will generally notify the State within 30 days but taxpayer may request expedited decertification if they have an imminent need for a passport.[28] To prevent the likelihood of delays, taxpayers interested in requesting an expedited decertification should consider enlisting the help of someone with experience in these matters.


The enforcement of passport restrictions serves as a significant incentive for taxpayers to resolve their delinquent tax issues. This IRS policy highlights the need to address tax debts promptly and engage with the IRS to find workable solutions, thereby avoiding severe consequences such as the loss of travel privileges.

Author: By Steven L. Walker with Special Thanks to Marissa Hein, a Pre-Law Student


[1] This amount does not include accrued interest and penalties. See IRM
[2] 26 U.S.C. §7345. Note, the IRS is not able to revoke the passport on its own. This power lies with the State Department.
[3] 26 U.S.C. §7345(b)(1)(A). See also 26 U.S.C. §7345 generally.
[4] This amount does not include accrued interest and penalties. See IRM
[5] 26 U.S.C. § 7345(b)(1)(B), 26 U.S.C. § 7345(f), “Revocation or denial of passport in cases of certain unpaid taxes,” IRS, (last accessed July. 03, 2024). Note that $62,000 is the current amount as of 2024. It is likely that this amount will change in future years.
[6] 26 U.S.C. §7345(b)(1)(C).
[7] See 26 U.S.C. §7345(b)(2), IRM
[8] 26 U.S.C. § 7345(b)(2). IRM
[9] See e.g. 26 U.S.C. § 7345(b)(2). IRM, IRM
[10] 26 U.S.C. §7345(a). See also IRM
[11] IRM
[12] IRM See also, Meduty v. Comm’r, 2023 U.S. Tax Ct. LEXIS 2443, *3
[13]  “Understanding your CP508C notice,” IRS, (last accessed July. 03, 2024).
[14] 26 USC §7345(e)(1).
[15] IRM
[16] IRM
[17] IRM
[18] 26 U.S.C. §7345(a), IRM
[19] IRM
[20] 26 USC § 7345(c); IRM
[21] IRM
[22] Id. 
[23] Id. 
[24] Id. 
[25] Id.
[26] 26 U.S.C. § 7345(d).
[27] IRM
[28] IRM