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Passport denial for tax debt, part 2: How will the new program work?

In the first part of this post, we took note of the provision put in place by Congress to authorize the IRS to revoke or deny passports due to "seriously delinquent" taxes.

To be sure, certain requirements must be met. But if they are met, your passport may be at stake due to tax debt.

So how will the program work?

In essence, it is a very bureaucratic procedure, with multiple government agencies involved.

Treasury Department action

The IRS is part of the Treasury Department. The first step for passport denial or revocation is for the Treasury Department to formally certify that an individual is seriously delinquent on his or her taxes.

There is a monetary threshold for this of $50,000. A debt has to be at greater than that amount, including interest and penalties, to be considered seriously delinquent.

State Department role

The next step is for the Treasury Department to inform the State Department of that the person has been certified as seriously tax-delinquent.

The State Department is the agency that actually revokes or denies a passport. But the State Department is not a rubber stamp for Treasury. State will have discretion to allow a passport to someone for humanitarian or emergency reasons.

Challenging a certification

Taxpayers who disagree with an IRS certification of "serious delinquency" can challenge it in U.S. Tax Court or in federal district court. If you are affected by a tax-debt certification that could deny you a passport, it is important to discuss your options with a knowledgeable tax attorney.

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