In January 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will started forwarding information about certain taxpayers to the Department of State to revoke passports who have significant tax debt. This was the first action taken to enforce the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act provision, which called for those taxpayers with “seriously delinquent tax debt” to have their passports revoked if they were not taking the necessary steps to deal with the debt. This is being done to encourage taxpayers to deal with their tax debt in as an efficient manner as possible.

Significant Tax Debt Defined

Those taxpayers that are deemed “seriously delinquent” are those that owe more than $55,000.00 (as of March 2023) in back taxes, penalties and interest for which the IRS has filed a Notice of Federal Tax Lien and the period to challenge it has expired or the IRS has issued a levy. This threshold increases slightly each year. Details about the notice you get when the IRS certifies your account as seriously delinquent and the current threshold can be found on the IRS website. The notice that the IRS issues to revoke your passport is CP508C.

The amount that you owe can be from only one year or aggregated over multiple years. This means that even if your $60,000.00 tax debt is from seven years ago, and you have not owed for multiple years since, you still qualify to be classified as seriously delinquent unless you are in a proper resolution agreement.

Preventing Passport Revocation

It is important to be proactive with your tax debt in every situation but extremely important if you are over the $51,000.00 threshold. You can protect your passport by getting into a protective resolution agreement with the IRS. It is easier to get into a status to prevent the passport hold from being issued than it is resolving the tax situation after the passport has been revoked.

If you are close to the current threshold, the easiest option is just to pay enough of the balance to keep your account below. But, even if you are below the “seriously delinquent” level, you are still at risk for collection activity, like wage or bank account garnishments or liens being put on your real property. Overall, you will benefit most from getting into a resolution option to prevent unexpected collections against your money.

Resolving Significant Tax Debt after Passport Revocation

If you have already gotten notice that the IRS has forwarded your account to the State Department, you need to take action in order to get your passport back. Some options available to deal with the debt may be getting into an installment agreement, having an Offer in Compromise accepted, or filing for bankruptcy.

The process to get into any status to return your passport is not quick. First, it usually requires all returns for the last 6 years be filed and often times a full financial analysis (income, expense, assets) is necessary to determine what a taxpayer will qualify for. As a result, if you are concern about getting your passport back after it has been revoked, it is critical to contact an experienced tax professional as soon as possible.

Additionally, if you have a critical reason to need a passport when yours has been revoked (work travel, death in the family, etc.), it may be possible to petition for a temporary return of your passport, with the property documentation.

Please contact our office for a free initial consultation to determine what your best options are. For additional information, check out the IRS website regarding Passport Revocation.


Arthur Rosatti, Esq. is an attorney at Ashley F. Morgan Law, PC. He has years of experience helping individuals manage their state and federal tax debt. He has helped manage clients tax debt ranging from a couple thousand dollars to balances in the millions of dollars.