If you currently have outstanding tax debt, you may be wondering, “Can you get a passport if you owe taxes?”. The answer depends on the severity of your debt.  According to the IRS, you will not be able to renew or apply for a passport if you are considered to owe “seriously delinquent” back taxes in the amount of $53,000 or more. Based on these conditions, the State Department can also revoke your current passport. If this applies to you, it’s wise to figure out a plan to repay your tax debt before you book any flights out of the country.

So, can you get a passport if you owe back taxes?—yes, if your tax debt is not considered seriously delinquent. In this post, we’ll cover how to figure out whether you’re disqualified from obtaining a passport due to your back taxes, as well as how to renew or apply for a new passport while you still owe debt to the IRS.

Passports & Back Taxes: The Basics

One of the ways the government can intervene to ensure they receive taxes that are owed to them is by restricting passport privileges. The relationship between U.S. passports and taxes is that it gives the IRS a measure of control to incentivize people to repay in order to be able to travel outside the country.

Once the IRS determines that you are considered seriously delinquent on back taxes, the agency will notify the State Department. When that action has been taken, the State Department is able to deny your application for a passport or passport renewal. The State Department also then has the right to revoke your passport, rendering you unable to travel outside the U.S. until you resolve your tax debt.

That said, not every instance of tax debt will result in passport restrictions. According to Business Insider, as of January 2020, the average tax debt is $16,849, which is well below the amount the IRS considers seriously delinquent. This means that for most people asking, “Can you get a passport if you owe taxes?”—the answer is yes. However, if you are one of the individuals who finds themselves in severe tax debt, your ability to use your passport may be limited.

If you do find yourself in the position where you can’t use your passport because you owe back taxes, our experts can help. At Community Tax, we are skilled at tax debt relief and can help you make arrangements with the IRS to repay your back taxes. In some cases, we may even be able to help reduce the amount you are required to repay.

In order to determine which position you are in, it’s important to understand the conditions around when passports are denied or revoked because of tax debt.

Can Owing Back Taxes Prevent You from Getting a Passport?

Yes, you can be denied a passport if you owe back taxes. Not only can you be denied when applying for a new passport, but your renewal may also be turned down.

However, there is some leeway in how these actions are deployed. Instead of an automatic denial, your application will be held for 90 days. This gives you time to determine whether the certification as seriously delinquent is incorrect or to make payment arrangements with the IRS.

Can the IRS Put a Hold on Your Passport?

Yes, your current passport can be revoked or put on hold. The hold will be released when you make arrangements for repayment with the IRS, whether that be paying in full or setting up a payment plan.

What Disqualifies You from Getting a Passport?

Can owing back taxes prevent you from getting a passport? Yes. But there are also many other factors that may be standing between you and your travel plans. In addition to being denied a passport if you owe taxes, you may also be disqualified if:

  • There is an outstanding state or federal warrant for your arrest
  • One of the conditions of your parole or probation is that you remain in the U.S.
  • You owe more than $2,500 in past-due child support (Unless you have an arrangement with your state agency)
  • You have a warrant for a felony in a foreign country
  • You have unpaid federal loans
  • You are currently incarcerated

Now that you have a better perspective of all the factors that could be considered in denying or revoking your passport, let’s get back to the main question at hand, “If you owe back taxes, can you get a passport?”. For many, the answer is yes.

How Is Seriously Delinquent Tax Debt Determined?

Only certain tax debt is considered to be in “seriously delinquent” status. If your back taxes are considered seriously delinquent, you will receive a CP508C Notice from the IRS.

However, there are a variety of exceptions that are made when it comes to which back taxes are used to calculate your delinquency status. If your all or part of your tax debt falls within one of the following categories, it may be excluded from what is considered seriously delinquent:

  • Debt that is part of an approved installment agreement and is being paid on time.
  • Debt that is part of an IRS-approved Offer in Compromise and is being paid on time.
  • Debt that is currently under suspended collection on the ground of innocent spouse relief.
  • Debt that is part of a collection due process hearing that has been requested as part of innocent spouse relief.

Generally speaking, you should be aware of your back taxes falling into one of these categories because it would take action on your part to enter into these agreements or initiate proceedings. However, if you have questions as to whether your debt could be considered seriously delinquent, our tax experts can evaluate the state of your debt and provide back taxes help.

Applying for a New Passport If You Owe Back Taxes

You might be thinking, “How can I get a passport if I owe taxes?”. While it depends on your circumstances, it is possible to get a new passport, even if you owe a large amount in back taxes.

If you want to apply for a new passport but are considered seriously delinquent, you will need to figure out a way to pay your taxes. Whether that is by arranging a payment plan, Offer in Compromise, or paying a lump sum through a tax amnesty program. Once you fall below the seriously delinquent status, the IRS will reverse their certification. This is typically completed within 30 days of payment. However, in some cases, the IRS may be able to expedite this process if circumstances are urgent.

Once your passport privileges are reinstated, you are free to apply for a new passport. If your passport application was submitted and put on hold because of your tax debt status and you are within the 90-day timeline, the application process will resume where you left off.

If you have not yet applied for your passport because you received a seriously delinquent notice, you will need to follow the standard new passport application process.

Renewing a Passport If You Owe Back Taxes

There are several important steps to take if you are trying to renew your passport but owe back taxes:

  1. Ensure that you are not seriously delinquent (otherwise, your application for renewal will be denied or put on hold).
  2. If you are seriously delinquent, you need to contact a tax professional and begin the process of negotiating tax resolution with the IRS.
  3. Submit the required information and documents for passport renewal (Form DS-82, current passport, photo, etc.)
  4. Mail in your renewal application.

If your passport renewal is denied because you are considered seriously delinquent, you will need to begin repaying your tax debt to the IRS before you can move forward.

Traveling When You Owe Back Taxes

You may be wondering “Can I travel if I owe taxes?”, and the answer is maybe. The State Department is allowed to restrict travel for individuals who owe back taxes. However, these actions are typically only applied to those who fall into the seriously delinquent category of tax debt.

If you have a pressing matter that requires you to travel outside the U.S. and you have seriously delinquent back taxes, you should make arrangements to pay all or a portion of your taxes (there are a number of tax relief programs you may be able to qualify for) as soon as possible.

Can You Leave the Country If You Owe Back Taxes?

Yes, if your tax debt is not considered seriously delinquent, you can still travel outside the country if you have a valid passport.

Keep in mind that if you currently have substantial outstanding tax debt, it could just be a matter of time before you cross the threshold into seriously delinquent status. If you have important upcoming travel plans and growing tax debt, you should consider making arrangements to resolve your unpaid taxes to prevent interference with travel. If you need a passport and owe taxes, we can help.

Pay Back Taxes & Get Your Passport

Instead of asking “Can you get a passport if you owe the IRS?”, the better question is, “How can I get a passport if I owe taxes?”.If you need to apply for, renew, or use your passport but back taxes are stopping you, we can help you take the steps necessary to resolve your tax debt.

Our team of tax experts is here to help you navigate the complex topic of back taxes and their consequences, and will assist you in finding a tax debt resolution that works for you. With a tax professional’s help, you can secure better terms for your debt payments and minimize how much you are required to pay, including interest and penalties. For over a decade, our team has helped taxpayers resolve tax issues big and small to restore their good standing with the IRS, and we can do the same for you.

For more information on how back taxes can impact your ability to qualify for certain programs and services, we have a variety of resources including our blog, which can help you get the answers to your questions like, “Can you get disability if you owe back taxes?”.