Updated FEBRUARY 27, 2024

Can You Get a Passport If You Owe Taxes?

Can you get a passport if you owe taxes? The answer is yes, you can get a passport if you owe taxes!

However, in some cases, owing back taxes will result in you not being able to get a passport — namely, if the IRS considers your tax debt to be “seriously delinquent.”

The FAST Act

On December 4, 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

Among other things, the FAST Act added Section 7345 to the Internal Revenue Code. The first part of this Section 7345 says:

“If the Secretary receives certification by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue that an individual has a seriously delinquent tax debt, the Secretary shall transmit such certification to the Secretary of State for action with respect to denial, revocation, or limitation of a passport pursuant to section 32101 of the FAST Act.”

Essentially, the law says that if you have “seriously delinquent tax debt,” the IRS will “certify” your tax debt as such to the State Department, which can then deny your passport application (or passport renewal application) or even revoke your current passport.

What Is Seriously Delinquent Tax Debt?

Thankfully, not all tax debt is considered to be “seriously delinquent.”

For one thing, only federal tax debt can be considered seriously delinquent tax debt; so if you owe non-federal tax debt such as state income tax or back property taxes, that doesn’t affect your passport.

So what makes a federal tax debt seriously delinquent? If it means these three conditions, it’s seriously delinquent:

  1. The federal tax debt has been assessed.
  2. The federal tax debt is in excess of $50,000 (note that this amount is adjusted annually — it’s $50,000 for 2023).
  3. The IRS has either filed a notice of federal tax lien against you and you have exhausted all available administrative remedies to contest it or the IRS has taken levy action against you for the tax debt.

Does the IRS Notify You If Your Tax Debt Is Seriously Delinquent?

Yes, the IRS notifies you if your tax debt is seriously delinquent and it has certified your tax debt to the State Department.

It generally makes this notification by sending you Notice CP508C.

How to Get Back Your Passport Rights

Now, even if you have seriously delinquent tax debt now — and you’ve lost your ability to apply for or renew your passport — you have some options when it comes to getting your passport rights back.

Option #1: Pay Off Your Seriously Delinquent Tax Debt

For one, you can simply pay off your seriously delinquent tax debt in full.

Obviously, this isn’t an option for many taxpayers, so thankfully there are other options available to you.

Option #2: Get Into an Installment Agreement For Your Tax Debt

Another option to get back your passport rights is to get into an installment agreement with the IRS for your tax debt.

Once you get into an installment agreement — or any of the other resolution options discussed below — the IRS will cease to consider your tax debt to be seriously delinquent and will decertify your debt with the State Department, thereby lifting any restrictions on your passport rights.

Note that both full-pay installment agreements and partial-payment installment agreements count for these purposes.

Option #3: Get Into Currently Not Collectible (CNC) Status

Believe it or not, you can get your passport rights back without paying the IRS a dime.

The trick, however, is that you have to prove to the IRS that paying them anything would result in an economic hardship to you — in other words, you have to get into currently not collectible (CNC) status.

Option #4: Submit an Offer in Compromise

Another route you can take — if you qualify for it, that is — is to submit an offer in compromise to the IRS.

An offer in compromise is an agreement with the IRS to settle your tax debt for less than you owe.

If the IRS accepts your offer in compromise — bam! — it will decertify your tax debt with the State Department, and your passport restrictions will be lifted!

Note that sometimes the IRS will decertify your tax debt to the State Department simply upon receiving your processable offer in compromise, but this is not common — usually, the IRS has to accept the offer in compromise in order for a taxpayer’s tax debt to be decertified.

Can You Get a Passport If You Owe State Taxes?

Yes, you can get a passport if you owe state taxes.

This is because states are not in charge of passports — the federal government is. This means that the only kind of tax debt that can impede your ability to get a passport is federal tax debt.

However, there are other privileges that can be taken away if you owe state taxes — for example, if you owe state taxes, they can suspend your driver’s license.