Americans Helping Americans Abroad

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) was created by Congress in 1996 under the Taxpayer Bills of Rights 2. It is an independent service inside the U.S. IRS that provides free, individual assistance to taxpayers who are having trouble resolving issues through regular IRS channels.

The leader of the TAS is National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson who has been a powerful advocate for American taxpayers living abroad. AARO has met in the past with her and her staff and she is not only aware of the many problems we face, she has included her observations and recommendations concerning international taxpayers in her annual reports to Congress.

The TAS has just released her Fiscal Year 2019 Objectives, a mid-year report to Congress which has a review of the 2018 filing season and lists areas that are a priority for improvement. In this report there is an issue mentioned that is particularly pertinent to American taxpayers living outside the U.S.: passport revocation.

On December 4, 2015, HR 22, the “FAST Act” (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) became Public Law N° 114-94. Title XXXII, Subtitle A of the law, relating to “Offsets”, contains provisions for the denial of issuance or revocation of the passport of any individual who has a “seriously delinquent” tax debt over $50,000. The law went into effect in January 2017. AARO has noted that this law is particularly harmful to Americans overseas.

The revocation of U.S. passports for tax debt is TAS Focus Area #6: Some IRS Procedures for the Certification Program Related to Denial or Revocation of Passports Ignore Legislative Intent and Impair Taxpayer Rights.

Under the law the IRS must inform the taxpayer with a notice of "certification” when a passport revocation case is sent to the U.S. State Department for action. The TAS points out that the communication is both limited and inadequate. It is possible, they say that “taxpayers may not learn the IRS has certified their tax debts until after certification.” Furthermore, the notice of certification, TAS says, does not include information about applying for decertification on the basis of identity theft, hardship, or emergency circumstances.

The National Taxpayer Advocate has issued a directive asking that the IRS exclude from certification all taxpayers who have an open case with the Taxpayer Advocate Service. In Fiscal Year 2019 the TAS will focus on “Assist[ing] taxpayers in meeting decertification criteria by resolving their tax debts, meeting a certification exception, or proving the certification was erroneous or the taxpayer did not owe the underlying liability.”

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is “Your Voice at the IRS.” Americans abroad who have problems with the IRS - from possible passport revocation to other issues that they have been unable to resolve through regular IRS channels - can contact the TAS and ask for assistance. This is a resource that all Americans living abroad should be aware of.