Passport Revocation and Denial for Tax Debt | IRS Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Starting January 1, 2018, the State Department commenced to deny the requests for US passport issuance and renewal made by individuals with “seriously delinquent tax debt”. Moreover, the State Department has been granted the authority for US passport revocation with respect to these individuals. Let’s explore this new law on passport revocation and denial for tax debt.

Passport Revocation and Denial: IRC Section 7345

Section 32101 of the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (“FAST Act”) added IRC Section 7345, which requires the IRS to notify the State Department of taxpayers that the IRS has certified individuals as having “seriously delinquent tax debt.” This is called “Section 7345 Certification.” Once the State Department receives such a Certification, it is generally required to deny a passport application for the certified individuals and may even revoke or limit passports that were previously issued to these individuals.

Passport Revocation and Denial: Who Can Make Section 7345 Certifications

Only designated IRS officials may certify an individual or reverse Certification. IRC Section 7345(g) specifically reserves this right to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, the Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), or the Commissioner of an operating division of the IRS (collectively, “Commissioner or specified delegate”).

Passport Revocation and Denial: Seriously Delinquent Tax Debt

The term “seriously delinquent tax debt” is defined in IRC Section 7345(b)(1), which sets up four requirements. First, the debt must be “unpaid, legally enforceable Federal tax liability of an individual.” Id. Note that the seriously delinquent tax debt is limited to liabilities incurred under Title 26 of the United States Code (i.e. the Internal Revenue Code). The term does not include items such as FBAR penalties and child support.

Second, this federal tax liability must have been “assessed.” IRC Section 7345(b)(1)(A).

Third, the assessed liability must be greater than $50,000. IRC Section 7345(b)(1)(B). Pursuant to the IRC Section 7345(f), the $50,000 amount is adjusted for inflation each calendar year beginning after 2016. In fact, for 2018, the threshold amount is $51,000.

Finally, either a levy pursuant to IRC Section 6331 or a lien pursuant to the IRC Section 6323 has been issued with respect to the assessed tax liability. IRC Section 7345(b)(1)(C). Moreover, the administrative appeal rights under IRC Section 6320 with respect to the lien must have been either exhausted or lapsed. Id.

Passport Revocation and Denial: More Than $50,000 Threshold

In calculating whether the $50,000 federal tax liability threshold is met, the IRS will aggregate all of the current tax liabilities for all taxable years and periods assessed against an individual. It will also include penalties and interest.

Passport Revocation and Denial: Exclusions

Under the newly-issued IRS guidance, the term “seriously delinquent tax debt” for the purposes of passport revocation and denial does not include the following:

1. A debt that is being timely paid under an IRS-approved installment agreement under section 6159.

2. A debt that is being timely paid under an offer in compromise accepted by the IRS under section 7122.

3. A debt that is being timely paid under the terms of a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice under section 7122.

4. A debt in connection with a levy for which collection is suspended because of a request for a due process hearing (or because such a request is pending) under section 6330.

5. A debt for which collection is suspended because the individual made an innocent spouse election (section 6015(b) or (c)) or the individual requested innocent spouse relief (section 6015(f)).

Passport Revocation and Denial: Exceptions

Additionally, the State Department will not revoke or deny the US passport of a taxpayer if one of the following exceptions apply:

1. The taxpayer is in bankruptcy;

2. The IRS identified the taxpayer as a victim of tax-related identity theft;

3. The IRS determined that the taxpayer’s account is currently uncollectible due to hardship;

4. The taxpayer is located within a federally declared disaster area;

5. The taxpayer has a request pending with the IRS for an installment agreement;

6. The taxpayer has a pending offer in compromise with the IRS;

7. The taxpayer has an IRS-accepted adjustment that will satisfy the debt in full; or

8. If the taxpayer is serving in a designated combat zone or participating in a contingency operation, the IRS will postpone the Certification.

Passport Revocation and Denial: 90-Day Delay

Before denying a passport, the State Department will grant a taxpayer 90 days to allow him to either resolve any erroneous certification issues, make a full payment of the tax debt or enter into a payment arrangement with the IRS.

Passport Revocation and Denial: Main Remedy in Case of Erroneous Certification

In cases where the IRS makes an erroneous Certification or fails to revers a certification, a taxpayer does not have many choices. It appears that the taxpayer will not be able to appeal to the IRS Office of Appeals. The main course of action in these situations appears to be a civil action in court under IRC Section 7345(e).

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Student Loan Interest Deduction and 2014 Phase-outs

With the costs of higher education increasing each year, the deductibility of interest paid on student loans is an important tax topic for many younger individuals. However, taxpayers are sometimes surprised to learn that there is a phase-out for various applicable income levels for this deduction, and above certain income levels, the deduction is completely eliminated.

This article will briefly explain the basics of the deduction for interest paid on student loans, as well as the deduction phase-outs. This explanation is not intended to convey tax or legal advice.

Student Loan Interest

Under IRS tax rules, interest paid for personal loans is typically not deductible for taxpayers; however, there is an exception to this general rule for interest paid on higher-education student loans (also referred to as education loans). Because this deduction is taken as an adjustment to income, qualifying taxpayers may claim this deduction even though that may not itemize their deductions on Form 1040 Schedule A.

In order to qualify, a student loan is required to have been taken out solely to pay qualified education expenses, and the loan must not be from a related person or made under a qualified employer plan. Also, students claiming the deduction must either be the taxpayers themselves, their spouses, or their dependents, and students must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree program (see applicable IRS publications for more specific definitions).

For 2013, qualifying taxpayers may reduce the amount of their income subject to taxation by the lesser of $2,500 or the amount of interest actually paid with this deduction. Taxpayers may claim the deduction if all of the following requirements are met: (1) they file under any status except married filing separately, (2) the exemption for the taxpayer is not being claimed by somebody else, (3) the taxpayer is under a legal obligation to pay interest on a qualified student loan, and (4) interest was actually paid on a qualifying student loan.

Student Loan Interest Deduction Phase-outs

The amount that a taxpayer may deduct for student loan interest paid is subject to phase-outs based upon their filing status and their Modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). For most taxpayers, MAGI will be their adjusted gross income (AGI) as determined on Form 1040 before the deduction for student loan interest is subtracted.

For taxpayers filing as single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er), and making not more than $60,000 MAGI, there is no reduction of the deduction. For taxpayers in those categories making more than $60,000 MAGI but less than $75,000, the phase-out will apply, and for taxpayers making more than $75,000 MAGI, the deduction will be completely eliminated.

For taxpayers filing as married filing jointly, and making not more than $125,000 MAGI, there is no reduction of the deduction. For taxpayers in those categories making more than $125,000 MAGI but less than $155,000, the phase-out will apply, and for taxpayers making more than $155,000 MAGI, the deduction will be completely eliminated.

The phase-out itself is usually determined by the following calculation: a taxpayer’s interest deduction (before the phase-out) is multiplied by a fraction. The numerator is the taxpayer’s MAGI minus $60,000 (or $125,000 for married filing jointly), and the denominator is $15,000 ($30,000 for married filing jointly). The result is then subtracted from the original interest deduction (before the phase-out), and this amount is what the taxpayer may actually deduct.