Let’s talk about the IRS letter 6152 and how it relates to US passport revocation. Up until recently, the IRS was not required to warn taxpayers before confirming them for passport revocation proceedings. In 2019, however, the IRS decided they would begin issuing a new letter to taxpayers who have more than $52,000 in delinquent tax debt.
This form-letter is called simply “Letter 6152”. It warns the taxpayer of the consequences they may face if they do not resolve their tax debts within 30 days. This can be done by:
- Paying, in full, the outstanding balance owed
- Providing documented evidence and facts that indicate their passport revocation process was improper or that an exemption should apply
- Entering into an alternative payment process
In sending this letter to the taxpayer the IRS is choosing to postpone certification for passport revocation to the State Department.
What is Passport Revocation?
While you may have an idea as to what this means based on the previous section, it is vitally important to understand what it actually means. Passport revocation is a tool created for the IRS that gives them the power to revoke or deny the passport of any taxpayer with delinquent tax debt. The legislation involved dictates that the debt must be defined as “seriously delinquent”.
The IRS says that debt is seriously delinquent when a tax liability is an amount greater than $50,000 and the taxpayer has exhausted every administrative appeal right applicable to the situation. This debt amount includes all penalties and interest amounts as well as the outstanding taxes. The legislation has been adjusted for inflation and currently in 2020 is defined as an amount greeted than $52,000.
There is a number of different reasons the IRS will not consider aspects of your debt when calculating this figure, however. Some of the tax debts not included in this are:
- Debts that are being paid with an IRS-approved installment payment
- Debts for which collection has been suspended due to a request for innocent spouse relief
- Debts being paid with an “Offer in Compromise” accepted by the IRS or a settlement agreement entered into with the Justice Department
- Debts for which a collection due process hearing is timely requested regarding a levy to collect the debt
The IRS also has a number of reasons that they will not certify someone owing seriously delinquent tax debt. For example, the IRS will pause their certification process if the taxpayer with debt is serving in a designated combat zone or is currently participating in a contingency operation. Some other reasons the IRS will not certify someone include the taxpayer:
- Being in bankruptcy
- Being identified by the IRS as a victim of tax-related identity theft
- Having an account the IRS has determined is not collectible due to personal hardship
- Being located within a federally declared disaster area
- Having an IRS accepted adjustment that will satisfy the debt in full
- Having a request pending with the IRS for an installment agreement
- Having a pending “Offer in Compromise” with the IRS
How Does Passport Revocation Work?
Like most government processes, passport revocation has a few different steps and procedures that a taxpayer can go through. While the details may be different in every case, the process will remain largely the same for each individual. The first step is known as Certification to the State. In this first stage of passport revocation, the IRS will send you Notice CP508C. This is done when the IRS determines and certifies seriously delinquent tax debts to the State Department.
This notice is sent by standard mail to the last known address the IRS has on record. If the taxpayer has a power of attorney the document will not be sent to them. At this point, the State Department holds the application for a total of 90 days. This is to allow the taxpayer to:
- Address and resolve any possible errors in their certification
- Pay their delinquent tax debt in full
- Enter into a payment arrangement with the IRS to pay the debt in structured payments
If none of these options are taken by the taxpayer, after the 90 day holding period is expired their passport will be revoked and they will be blocked from travel. If any of these actions are taken, however, there will be another stage in the process
Reversal of certification occurs when the IRS sends you Notice CP508R. This document indicated that the IRS has reversed their previous certification on the taxpayer’s debt. The IRS will send out Notice CP508R only when:
- Seriously delinquent tax debt has been paid in full or becomes legally unenforceable
- The debt has been paid to the point it can no longer be considered seriously delinquent
- The original certification has been proven to be started in error
Once the reversal of the certification process has begun
Once the reversal of the certification process has begun, the IRS will begin to reverse the passport revocation process within 30 days. The IRS will also provide notification to the State Department as soon as it is logistically practicable to do so.
However, if the debt is not certified it is important to note that the IRS will not reverse certification for a collection due process hearing or innocent spouse relief. The IRS will also not reverse the certification for a passport revocation because the debt has been paid below the threshold.
In some circumstances, however, the IRS will provide a referral to revoke the passport even after certification has been reversed. What this means is that the IRS may still ask the State Department to use its authority and revoke a taxpayer’s passport after certification has been officially dismissed.
This type of situation could occur when a taxpayer creates arrangements to pay their debts to the IRS and fails to follow through on the agreed-upon plan. In other circumstances, the IRS may ask the State Department to revoke a taxpayer’s passport if it is determined they have the ability to use offshore activities or interests to resolve their debts but choose not to.
In any case, before the IRS sends this additional referral for passport revocation to the State Department, they will first send the taxpayer Letter 6152 as we discussed at the beginning of this article. As stated before, this letter will include information asking the taxpayer to call the IRS within 30 days in order to resolve their account and prevent passport revocation from occurring.
Legal Options for Dealing With Letter 6152
You may be wondering what options the taxpayer has when dealing with receiving Letter 6152 and being faced with passport revocation. It should be noted that due to the phrasing of the surrounding legislation, the State Department can not be held liable for anything regarding this process. It also can not be sued for any notifications sent in error or failure to decertify the taxpayer for passport revocation.
A suit can be filed, however, if the IRS certified the taxpayer’s debt to the State Department. This can be filed in US Tax Court or a US District Court in order to have the court determine whether the certification was done in error. It could also be done in order to determine if the IRS failed to reverse their certification decision when they were required by law to do so.
If the court is able to prove that the certification has been given to the taxpayer in error or that the IRS failed to revoke the certification of the taxpayer it is able to order the IRS to notify the State Department of the error. The taxpayer is not able to sue for monetary compensation or to have a lien/levy released.
In Summary: Letter 6152, Passport Revocation, and You
To wrap it up, Letter 6152 is the final notification that could be standing between you and having your passport revoked due to tax debts. While the letter is only issued to those who have been legally determined and certified as owing a seriously delinquent tax debt, it is important to be aware of what options you have if you believe to have been sent the notification in error.
In reading this article you should now understand that:
- Letter 6152 is sent to the taxpayer 30 days before the IRS is to contact the State Department to recommend passport revocation
- Passport revocation is the act of having your passport removed or revoked and your ability to freely travel restricted
- The IRS must first certify your debt to the State Department for 90 days before attempting to revoke your passport
- To annul your certification you must resolve any certification errors, make full payment of tax debt, or enter a payment agreement with the IRS
As with all serious financial and legal matters, it is important that you consult with a qualified professional to see how this information applies to your specific case.