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Nina Olson, Tenacious Bulldog, Speaks Out on Passport Revocation for Tax Debt

Nina Olson, IRS Taxpayer Assistance Advocate, is the Taxpayer’s Voice at the IRS.  She heads the Taxpayer Assistance Services (TAS) of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

I think Ms. Olson rocks! It seems that Ms. Olson’s job is to bite the hand that feeds her.  I read that her office inside the IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C., is crowded with toy bulldogs. The stuffed animals  were given to Ms. Olson by her staff in recognition of her tenacious character as evidenced by her ongoing battles to protect taxpayers from the Taxman when heavy-handed tactics are at play.

Ms. Olson just posted 2 fabulous articles on the TAS Blog dealing with passport revocation for certain seriously delinquent tax debt. I have blogged on this recently enacted law before and my article can be accessed here if you would like an overview.

Below, I provide a few points from Ms. Olson’s posts – but please do read her blog posts in full, as they contain a lot of valuable information.  The IRS’s New Passport Program: How Lack of Notice Harms Taxpayers (in two Parts). The posts can be accessed here and here.

  • Ms. Olson reports that the IRS will begin certifications to the Department of State (DOS) in the coming months certifying that a particular taxpayer has “seriously delinquent” tax debt.
  • Once the IRS makes the certification, the DOS must deny the person’s passport application and it may revoke their passport, except in certain emergency and humanitarian situations.  The program will initially start off with DOS denying passport applications and will move on to passport revocations later.
  • The DOS will hold an applicant’s passport application open for 90 days to allow the taxpayer to resolve the tax debt. Taxpayers may need their passports immediately for travel, such as upcoming business travel, but this would not fall under the DOS’s discretion to grant a waiver for emergency or humanitarian reasons.
  • Ms. Olson added that due to the procedure for notifying taxpayers, there will most certainly be taxpayers who are caught unaware when the IRS certifies their seriously delinquent tax debts to the DOS.
  • Under the IRS’s current policy, the only direct notice prior to the certification is through language buried in the middle of the taxpayer’s so-called “Collection Due Process” (CDP) notice.  Ms. Olson maintains this is confusing and insufficient notice to taxpayers.  She correctly states that “[m]erely placing a random paragraph among many other pieces of important information may not be sufficient to put a person on notice.”  Sounds right to me!
  • Ms. Olson believes that in many cases, a certification to DOS could be avoided entirely simply by providing the taxpayer with a stand-alone notice prior to the certification to DOS. This kind of notice will motivate the taxpayer to action and is clear warning to him or her of what is about to happen if speedy action is not taken.
  • Ms. Olson also expressed her dismay that the IRS refused to exclude taxpayers from the certification list during the time their cases are open in Taxpayer Assistance Services.

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