Pay Your Taxes, or Else Don’t Fly

a passport on top of a passport

It’s tax time. And this year, travelers have more reason than ever to pay up: Delinquent taxpayers risk having their passports denied or revoked.

The rather obscure Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, FAST for short, passed in December 2015, authorized funds for miscellaneous transportation-related programs. But buried in the bill’s verbiage lies Sec. 32101, which calls for the “revocation or denial of passport in case of certain unpaid taxes.”

In a footnote, buried even deeper in the bill, there’s this:

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.

To qualify for such extreme measures, the outstanding taxes must exceed $50,000, and all available means to collect the tax must have been exhausted, without success.

Having one’s passport revoked potentially limits more than just international travel. In some states, drivers’ licenses don’t meet the standards set by the REAL ID Act, and won’t be accepted by airlines for domestic flights after January 22, 2018. For most travelers, that will leave a valid passport as the next option for check-in i.d.

Of course, the average taxpayer isn’t likely to get $50,000 behind in his IRS payments. And even then, engaging with the IRS to resolve the matter will keep things from escalating to the point of passport revocation.

According to the its website, which now features a page entitled “Revocation or Denial of Passport in Case of Certain Unpaid Taxes,” the IRS will begin notifying the State Department of delinquent taxpayers in “early 2017.”

So if you’re one of them, be warned: The clock is ticking.

Reader Reality Check

My passport is in no danger of being revoked. Yours?

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

This article first appeared on, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.