Choosing To Take Credit or Deduction

You can choose whether to take the amount of any qualified foreign taxes paid or accrued during the year as a foreign tax credit or as an itemized deduction. You can change your choice for each year’s taxes.

To choose the foreign tax credit, in most cases you must complete Form 1116 and attach it to your U.S. tax return. However, you may qualify for the exception that allows you to claim the foreign tax credit without using Form 1116.. To choose to claim the taxes as an itemized deduction, use Schedule A (Form 1040), Itemized Deductions.

Choice Applies to All Qualified Foreign Taxes

As a general rule, you must choose to take either a credit or a deduction for all qualified foreign taxes.

If you choose to take a credit for qualified foreign taxes, you must take the credit for all of them. You cannot deduct any of them. Conversely, if you choose to deduct qualified foreign taxes, you must deduct all of them. You cannot take a credit for any of them.

There are exceptions to this general rule, which are described next.

Exceptions for foreign taxes not allowed as a credit.   Even if you claim a credit for other foreign taxes, you can deduct any foreign tax that is not allowed as a credit if:

  • You paid the tax to a country for which a credit is not allowed because it provides support for acts of international terrorism, or because the United States does not have or does not conduct diplomatic relations with it or recognize its government,
  • You paid withholding tax on dividends from foreign corporations whose stock you did not hold for the required period of time,
  • You paid withholding tax on income or gain (other than dividends) from property you did not hold for the required period of time,
  • You paid withholding tax on income or gain to the extent you had to make related payments on positions in substantially similar or related property,
  • You participated in or cooperated with an international boycott,
  • You paid taxes in connection with the purchase or sale of oil or gas, or
  • You paid or accrued taxes on income or gain in connection with a covered asset acquisition. Covered asset acquisitions include certain acquisitions that result in a stepped-up basis for U.S. tax purposes. For more information, see Internal Revenue Code section 901(m). The IRS intends to issue guidance that will explain this provision in greater detail.

Foreign taxes that are not income taxes.   In most cases, only foreign income taxes qualify for the foreign tax credit. Other taxes, such as foreign real and personal property taxes, do not qualify. But you may be able to deduct these other taxes even if you claim the foreign tax credit for foreign income taxes.

In most cases, you can deduct these other taxes only if they are expenses incurred in a trade or business or in the production of income. However, you can deduct foreign real property taxes that are not trade or business expenses as an itemized deduction on Schedule A (Form 1040).

Carrybacks and carryovers.   There is a limit on the credit you can claim in a tax year. If your qualified foreign taxes exceed the credit limit, you may be able to carry over or carry back the excess to another tax year. If you deduct qualified foreign taxes in a tax year, you cannot use a carryback or carryover in that year. That is because you cannot take both a deduction and a credit for qualified foreign taxes in the same tax year.

Making or Changing Your Choice

You can make or change your choice to claim a deduction or credit at any time during the period within 10 years from the regular due date for filing the return (without regard to any extension of time to file) for the tax year in which the taxes were actually paid or accrued. You make or change your choice on your tax return (or on an amended return) for the year your choice is to be effective.

Why Choose the Credit?

The foreign tax credit is intended to relieve you of a double tax burden when your foreign source income is taxed by both the United States and the foreign country. In most cases, if the foreign tax rate is higher than the U.S. rate, there will be no U.S. tax on the foreign income. If the foreign tax rate is lower than the U.S. rate, U.S. tax on the foreign income will be limited to the difference between the rates. The foreign tax credit can only reduce U.S. taxes on foreign source income; it cannot reduce U.S. taxes on U.S. source income.

Although no one rule covers all situations, in most cases it is better to take a credit for qualified foreign taxes than to deduct them as an itemized deduction. This is because:

  • A credit reduces your actual U.S. income tax on a dollar-for-dollar basis, while a deduction reduces only your income subject to tax,
  • You can choose to take the foreign tax credit even if you do not itemize your deductions. You then are allowed the standard deduction in addition to the credit, and
  • If you choose to take the foreign tax credit, and the taxes paid or accrued exceed the credit limit for the tax year, you may be able to carry over or carry back the excess to another tax year.

Credit for Taxes Paid or Accrued

You can claim the credit for a qualified foreign tax in the tax year in which you pay it or accrue it, depending on your method of accounting. “Tax year” refers to the tax year for which your U.S. return is filed, not the tax year for which your foreign return is filed.

Accrual method of accounting.   If you use an accrual method of accounting, you can claim the credit only in the year in which you accrue the tax. You are using an accrual method of accounting if you report income when you earn it, rather than when you receive it, and you deduct your expenses when you incur them, rather than when you pay them.

In most cases, foreign taxes accrue when all the events have taken place that fix the amount of the tax and your liability to pay it. Generally, this occurs on the last day of the tax year for which your foreign return is filed.

Contesting your foreign tax liability.   If you are contesting your foreign tax liability, you cannot accrue it and take a credit until the amount of foreign tax due is finally determined. However, if you choose to pay the tax liability you are contesting, you can take a credit for the amount you pay before a final determination of foreign tax liability is made. Once your liability is determined, the foreign tax credit is allowable for the year to which the foreign tax relates. If the amount of foreign taxes taken as a credit differs from the final foreign tax liability.

You may have to post a bond.   If you claim a credit for taxes accrued but not paid, you may have to post an income tax bond to guarantee your payment of any tax due in the event the amount of foreign tax paid differs from the amount claimed.

Cash method of accounting.   If you use the cash method of accounting, you can choose to take the credit either in the year you pay the tax or in the year you accrue it. You are using the cash method of accounting if you report income in the year you actually or constructively receive it, and deduct expenses in the year you pay them.

Choosing to take credit in the year taxes accrue.   Even if you use the cash method of accounting, you can choose to take a credit for foreign taxes in the year they accrue. You make the choice by checking the box in Part II of Form 1116. Once you make that choice, you must follow it in all later years and take a credit for foreign taxes in the year they accrue.

In addition, the choice to take the credit when foreign taxes accrue applies to all foreign taxes qualifying for the credit. You cannot take a credit for some foreign taxes when paid and take a credit for others when accrued.

If you make the choice to take the credit when foreign taxes accrue and pay them in a later year, you cannot claim a deduction for any part of the previously accrued taxes.

Credit based on taxes paid in earlier year.   If, in earlier years, you took the credit based on taxes paid, and this year you choose to take the credit based on taxes accrued, you may be able to take the credit this year for taxes from more than one year.

Foreign Currency and Exchange Rates

U.S. income tax is imposed on income expressed in U.S. dollars, while in most cases the foreign tax is imposed on income expressed in foreign currency. Therefore, fluctuations in the value of the foreign currency relative to the U.S. dollar will affect the foreign tax credit.

Translating foreign currency into U.S. dollars.   If you receive all or part of your income or pay some or all of your expenses in foreign currency, you must translate the foreign currency into U.S. dollars. How you do this depends on your functional currency. In most cases, your functional currency is the U.S. dollar unless you are required to use the currency of a foreign country.

You must make all federal income tax determinations in your functional currency. The U.S. dollar is the functional currency for all taxpayers except some qualified business units. A qualified business unit is a separate and clearly identified unit of a trade or business that maintains separate books and records. Unless you are self-employed, your functional currency is the U.S. dollar.

Even if you are self-employed and have a qualified business unit, your functional currency is the U.S. dollar if any of the following apply.

  • You conduct the business primarily in dollars.
  • The principal place of business is located in the United States.
  • You choose to or are required to use the dollar as your functional currency.
  • The business books and records are not kept in the currency of the economic environment in which a significant part of the business activities is conducted.

If your functional currency is the U.S. dollar, you must immediately translate into dollars all items of income, expense, etc., that you receive, pay, or accrue in a foreign currency and that will affect computation of your income tax. If there is more than one exchange rate, use the one that most properly reflects your income. In most cases, you can get exchange rates from banks and U.S. Embassies.

If your functional currency is not the U.S. dollar, make all income tax determinations in your functional currency. At the end of the year, translate the results, such as income or loss, into U.S. dollars to report on your income tax return.

Rate of exchange for foreign taxes paid.   Use the rate of exchange in effect on the date you paid the foreign taxes to the foreign country unless you meet the exception discussed next. If your tax was withheld in foreign currency, use the rate of exchange in effect for the date on which the tax was withheld. If you make foreign estimated tax payments, you use the rate of exchange in effect for the date on which you made the estimated tax payment.

The exchange rate rules discussed here apply even if the foreign taxes are paid or accrued with respect to a foreign tax credit splitting event (discussed later).

Exception.   If you claim the credit for foreign taxes on an accrual basis, in most cases you must use the average exchange rate for the tax year to which the taxes relate. This rule applies to accrued taxes relating to tax years beginning after 1997 and only under the following conditions.

  1. The foreign taxes are paid on or after the first day of the tax year to which they relate.
  2. The foreign taxes are paid not later than 2 years after the close of the tax year to which they relate.
  3. The foreign tax liability is not denominated in an inflationary currency (defined in the Form 1116 instructions). (This condition applies to taxes paid or accrued in tax years beginning after November 6, 2007.)

For all other foreign taxes, you should use the exchange rate in effect on the date you paid them.

Election to use exchange rate on date paid.   If you have accrued foreign taxes that you are otherwise required to convert using the average exchange rate, you may elect to use the exchange rate in effect on the date the foreign taxes are paid if the taxes are denominated in a nonfunctional foreign currency. If any of the accrued taxes are unpaid, you must translate them into U.S. dollars using the exchange rate on the last day of the U.S. tax year to which those taxes relate. You may make the election for all nonfunctional currency foreign income taxes or only those nonfunctional currency foreign income taxes that are attributable to qualified business units with a U.S. dollar functional currency. Once made, the election applies to the tax year for which made and all subsequent tax years unless revoked with the consent of the IRS. The election is available for tax years beginning after 2004. It must be made by the due date (including extensions) for filing the tax return for the first tax year to which the election applies. Make the election by attaching a statement to the applicable tax return. The statement must identify whether the election is made for all foreign taxes or only for foreign taxes attributable to qualified business units with a U.S. dollar functional currency.

Foreign Tax Redetermination

A foreign tax redetermination is any change in your foreign tax liability that may affect your U.S. foreign tax credit claimed.

The time of the credit remains the year to which the foreign taxes paid or accrued relate, even if the change in foreign tax liability occurs in a later year.

If a foreign tax redetermination occurs, a redetermination of your U.S. tax liability is required if any of the following conditions apply.

  1. The accrued taxes when paid differ from the amounts claimed as a credit.
  2. The accrued taxes you claimed as a credit in one tax year are not paid within 2 years after the end of that tax year.

If this applies to you, you must reduce the credit previously claimed by the amount of the unpaid taxes. You will not be allowed a credit for the unpaid taxes until you pay them. When you pay the accrued taxes, you must translate them into U.S. dollars using the exchange rate as of the date they were paid. The foreign tax credit is allowed for the year to which the foreign tax relates..

  1. The foreign taxes you paid are refunded in whole or in part.
  2. For taxes taken into account when accrued but translated into dollars on the date of payment, the dollar value of the accrued tax differs from the dollar value of the tax paid because of fluctuations in the exchange rate between the date of accrual and the date of payment. However, no redetermination is required if the change in foreign tax liability for each foreign country is solely attributable to exchange rate fluctuations and is less than the smaller of:
    1. $10,000, or
    2. 2% of the total dollar amount of the foreign tax initially accrued for that foreign country for the U.S. tax year.

In this case, you must adjust your U.S. tax in the tax year in which the accrued foreign taxes are paid.

Notice to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of Redetermination

You are required to notify the IRS about a foreign tax credit redetermination that affects your U.S. tax liability for each tax year affected by the redetermination. In most cases, you must file Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, with a revised Form 1116 and a statement that contains information sufficient for the IRS to redetermine your U.S. tax liability for the year or years affected.

You are not required to attach Form 1116 for a tax year affected by a redetermination if:

  1. The amount of your creditable taxes paid or accrued during the tax year is not more than $300 ($600 if married filing a joint return) as a result of the foreign tax redetermination, and
  2. You meet the requirements listed under Exemption from foreign tax credit limitunder How To Figure the Credit, later.

There are other exceptions to this requirement.

Contents of statement.   The statement must include all of the following.

  • Your name, address, and taxpayer identification number.
  • The tax year or years that are affected by the foreign tax redetermination.
  • The date or dates the foreign taxes were accrued, if applicable.
  • The date or dates the foreign taxes were paid.
  • The amount of foreign taxes paid or accrued on each date (in foreign currency) and the exchange rate used to translate each amount.
  • Information sufficient to determine any interest due from or owing to you, including the amount of any interest paid to you by the foreign government and the dates received.

In the case of any foreign taxes that were not paid before the date two years after the close of the tax year to which those taxes relate, you must provide the amount of those taxes in foreign currency and the exchange rate that was used to translate that amount when originally claimed as a credit.

If any foreign tax was refunded in whole or in part, you must provide the date and amount (in foreign currency) of each refund, the exchange rate that was used to translate each amount when originally claimed as a credit, and the exchange rate for the date the refund was received (for purposes of computing foreign currency gain or loss under Internal Revenue Code section 988).

Due date of notification to IRS.   If you pay less foreign tax than you originally claimed a credit for, in most cases you must file a notification by the due date (with extensions) of your original return for your tax year in which the foreign tax redetermination occurred. There is no limit on the time the IRS has to redetermine and assess the correct U.S. tax due. If you pay more foreign tax than you originally claimed a credit for, you have 10 years to file a claim for refund of U.S. taxes.

Multiple redeterminations of U.S. tax liability for same tax year.   Where more than one foreign tax redetermination requires a redetermination of U.S. tax liability for the same tax year and those redeterminations occur in the same tax year or within two consecutive tax years, you can file for that tax year one notification (Form 1040X with a Form 1116 and the required statement) that reflects all those tax redeterminations. If you choose to file one notification, the due date for that notification is the due date of the original return (with extensions) for the year in which the first foreign tax redetermination that reduced your foreign tax liability occurred. However, foreign tax redeterminations with respect to the tax year for which a redetermination of U.S. tax liability is required may occur after the due date for providing that notification. In this situation, you may have to file more than one Form 1040X for that tax year.

Additional U.S. tax due eliminated by foreign tax credit carryback or carryover.   If a foreign tax redetermination requires a redetermination of U.S. tax liability that would otherwise result in an additional amount of U.S. tax due, but the additional tax is eliminated by a carryback or carryover of an unused foreign tax, you do not have to amend your tax return for the year affected by the redetermination. Instead, you can notify the IRS by attaching a statement to the original return for the tax year in which the foreign tax redetermination occurred. You must file the statement by the due date (with extensions) of that return. The statement must show the amount of the unused foreign taxes paid or accrued and a detailed schedule showing the computation of the carryback or carryover (including the amounts carried back or over to the year for which a redetermination on U.S. tax liability is required).

Failure-to-notify penalty.   If you fail to notify the IRS of a foreign tax redetermination and cannot show reasonable cause for the failure, you may have to pay a penalty.For each month, or part of a month, that the failure continues, you pay a penalty of 5% of the tax due resulting from a redetermination of your U.S. tax. This penalty cannot be more than 25% of the tax due.

Foreign tax refund.   If you receive a foreign tax refund without interest from the foreign government, you will not have to pay interest on the amount of tax due resulting from the adjustment to your U.S. tax for the time before the date of the refund.

However, if you receive a foreign tax refund with interest, you must pay interest to the IRS up to the amount of the interest paid to you by the foreign government. The interest you must pay cannot be more than the interest you would have had to pay on taxes that were unpaid for any other reason for the same period. Interest also is owed from the time you receive a refund until you pay the additional tax due.

Foreign tax imposed on foreign refund.  If your foreign tax refund is taxed by the foreign country, you cannot take a separate credit or deduction for this additional foreign tax. However, when you refigure the foreign tax credit taken for the original foreign tax, reduce the amount of the refund by the foreign tax paid on the refund.

Time Limit on Refund Claims

You have 10 years to file a claim for refund of U.S. tax if you find that you paid or accrued a larger foreign tax than you claimed a credit for. The 10-year period begins the day after the regular due date for filing the return (without extensions) for the year in which the taxes were actually paid or accrued.

You have 10 years to file your claim regardless of whether you claim the credit for taxes paid or taxes accrued. The 10-year period applies to claims for refund or credit based on:

  1. Fixing math errors in figuring qualified foreign taxes,
  2. Reporting qualified foreign taxes not originally reported on the return, or
  3. Any other change in the size of the credit (including one caused by correcting the foreign tax credit limit).

The special 10-year period also applies to making or changing your choice to claim a deduction or credit for foreign taxes..

Who Can Take the Credit?

U.S. citizens, resident aliens, and nonresident aliens who paid foreign income tax and are subject to U.S. tax on foreign source income may be able to take a foreign tax credit.

U.S. Citizens

If you are a U.S. citizen, you are taxed by the United States on your worldwide income wherever you live. You are normally entitled to take a credit for foreign taxes you pay or accrue.

Resident Aliens

If you are a resident alien of the United States, you can take a credit for foreign taxes subject to the same general rules as U.S. citizens. If you are a bona fide resident of Puerto Rico for the entire tax year, you also come under the same rules.

Usually, you can take a credit only for those foreign taxes imposed on income you actually or constructively received while you had resident alien status.

For information on alien status, see Publication 519.

Nonresident Aliens

If you are a nonresident alien, you cannot take the credit in most cases. However, you may be able to take the credit if:

  • You were a bona fide resident of Puerto Rico during your entire tax year, or
  • You pay or accrue tax to a foreign country or U.S. possession on income from foreign sources that is effectively connected with a trade or business in the United States. But if you must pay tax to a foreign country or U.S. possession on income from U.S. sources only because you are a citizen or a resident of that country or U.S. possession, do not use that tax in figuring the amount of your credit.

For information on alien status and effectively connected income, see Publication 519.

What Foreign Taxes Qualify for the Credit?

In most cases, the following four tests must be met for any foreign tax to qualify for the credit.

  1. The tax must be imposed on you.
  2. You must have paid or accrued the tax.
  3. The tax must be the legal and actual foreign tax liability.
  4. The tax must be an income tax (or a tax in lieu of an income tax).

Certain foreign taxes do not qualify for the credit even if the four tests are met.

Tax Must Be Imposed on You

You can claim a credit only for foreign taxes that are imposed on you by a foreign country or U.S. possession. For example, a tax that is deducted from your wages is considered to be imposed on you. You cannot shift the right to claim the credit by contract or other means.

Foreign country.   A foreign country includes any foreign state and its political subdivisions. Income, war profits, and excess profits taxes paid or accrued to a foreign city or province qualify for the foreign tax credit.

U.S. possessions.   For foreign tax credit purposes, all qualified taxes paid to U.S. possessions are considered foreign taxes. For this purpose, U.S. possessions include Puerto Rico and American Samoa.   When the term “foreign country” is used in this publication, it includes U.S. possessions unless otherwise stated.

You Must Have Paid or Accrued the Tax

In most cases, you can claim the credit only if you paid or accrued the foreign tax to a foreign country or U.S. possession. However, the paragraphs that follow describe some instances in which you can claim the credit even if you did not directly pay or accrue the tax yourself.

Joint return.   If you file a joint return, you can claim the credit based on the total foreign income taxes paid or accrued by you and your spouse.

Combined income.   If foreign tax is imposed on the combined income of two or more persons (for example, a husband and wife), the tax is allocated among, and considered paid by, these persons on a pro rata basis in proportion to each person’s portion of the combined income, as determined under foreign law and Regulations section 1.901-2(f)(3)(iii). Combined income with respect to each foreign tax that is imposed on a combined basis (and combined income subject to tax exemption or preferential tax rates) is computed separately, and the tax on that combined income is allocated separately.

These rules apply to foreign taxes paid or accrued in tax years beginning after February 14, 2012. However, you can choose to apply the new rules to foreign taxes paid or accrued in tax years beginning after December 31, 2010, and before February 15, 2012. Thus, these rules are optional for 2012 if you file your return on a calendar year basis. For more details, see paragraphs (f) and (h) of Regulations section 1.901-2. For similar rules applicable to prior tax years, see Regulations section 1.901-2 (revised as of April 1, 2011).

Partner or S corporation shareholder.   If you are a member of a partnership, or a shareholder in an S corporation, you can claim the credit based on your proportionate share of the foreign income taxes paid or accrued by the partnership or the S corporation. These amounts will be shown on the Schedule K-1 you receive from the partnership or S corporation. However, if you are a shareholder in an S corporation that in turn owns stock in a foreign corporation, you cannot claim a credit for your share of foreign taxes paid by the foreign corporation.

Beneficiary.   If you are a beneficiary of an estate or trust, you may be able to claim the credit based on your proportionate share of foreign income taxes paid or accrued by the estate or trust. This amount will be shown on the Schedule K-1 you receive from the estate or trust. However, you must show that the tax was imposed on income of the estate and not on income received by the decedent.

Mutual fund shareholder.   If you are a shareholder of a mutual fund or other regulated investment company (RIC), you may be able to claim the credit based on your share of foreign income taxes paid by the fund if it chooses to pass the credit on to its shareholders. You should receive from the mutual fund or other RIC a Form 1099-DIV, or similar statement, showing your share of the foreign income, and your share of the foreign taxes paid. If you do not receive this information, you will need to contact the fund.

Controlled foreign corporation shareholder.   If you are a shareholder of a controlled foreign corporation and choose to be taxed at corporate rates on the amount you must include in gross income from that corporation, you can claim the credit based on your share of foreign taxes paid or accrued by the controlled foreign corporation. If you make this election, you must claim the credit by filing Form 1118, Foreign Tax Credit—Corporations.

Controlled foreign corporation.   A controlled foreign corporation is a foreign corporation in which U.S. shareholders own more than 50% of the voting power or value of the stock. You are considered a U.S. shareholder if you own, directly or indirectly, 10% or more of the total voting power of all classes of the foreign corporation’s stock. See Internal Revenue Code sections 951(b) and 958(b) for more information.

Tax Must Be the Legal and Actual Foreign Tax Liability

The amount of foreign tax that qualifies is not necessarily the amount of tax withheld by the foreign country. Only the legal and actual foreign tax liability that you paid or accrued during the year qualifies for the credit.

Foreign tax refund.   You cannot take a foreign tax credit for income taxes paid to a foreign country if it is reasonably certain the amount would be refunded, credited, rebated, abated, or forgiven if you made a claim.

For example, the United States has tax treaties with many countries allowing U.S. citizens and residents reductions in the rates of tax of those foreign countries. However, some treaty countries require U.S. citizens and residents to pay the tax figured without regard to the lower treaty rates and then claim a refund for the amount by which the tax actually paid is more than the amount of tax figured using the lower treaty rate. The qualified foreign tax is the amount figured using the lower treaty rate and not the amount actually paid, because the excess tax is refundable.

Subsidy received.   Tax payments a foreign country returns to you in the form of a subsidy do not qualify for the foreign tax credit. This rule applies even if the subsidy is given to a person related to you, or persons who participated with you in a transaction or a related transaction. A subsidy can be provided by any means but must be determined, directly or indirectly, in relation to the amount of tax, or to the base used to figure the tax.

The term “subsidy” includes any type of benefit. Some ways of providing a subsidy are refunds, credits, deductions, payments, or discharges of obligations.

Shareholder receiving refund for corporate tax in integrated system.   Under some foreign tax laws and treaties, a shareholder is considered to have paid part of the tax that is imposed on the corporation. You may be able to claim a refund of these taxes from the foreign government. You must include the refund (including any amount withheld) in your income in the year received. Any tax withheld from the refund is a qualified foreign tax.

Tax Must Be an Income Tax (or Tax in Lieu of Income Tax)

In most cases, only income, war profits, and excess profits taxes (income taxes) qualify for the foreign tax credit. Foreign taxes on wages, dividends, interest, and royalties qualify for the credit in most cases. Furthermore, foreign taxes on income can qualify even though they are not imposed under an income tax law if the tax is in lieu of an income, war profits, or excess profits tax.

Income Tax

Simply because the levy is called an income tax by the foreign taxing authority does not make it an income tax for this purpose. A foreign levy is an income tax only if it meets both of the following requirements.

  1. It is a tax; that is, you have to pay it and you get no specific economic benefit (discussed below) from paying it.
  2. The predominant character of the tax is that of an income tax in the U.S. sense.

A foreign levy may meet these requirements even if the foreign tax law differs from U.S. tax law. The foreign law may include in income items that U.S. law does not include, or it may allow certain exclusions or deductions that U.S. law does not allow.

Specific economic benefit.   In most cases, you get a specific economic benefit if you receive, or are considered to receive, an economic benefit from the foreign country imposing the levy, and:

  1. If there is a generally imposed income tax, the economic benefit is not available on substantially the same terms to all persons subject to the income tax, or
  2. If there is no generally imposed income tax, the economic benefit is not available on substantially the same terms to the population of the foreign country in general.

You are considered to receive a specific economic benefit if you have a business transaction with a person who receives a specific economic benefit from the foreign country and, under the terms and conditions of the transaction, you receive directly or indirectly all or part of the benefit.

Economic benefits.   Economic benefits include the following.

  • Goods.
  • Services.
  • Fees or other payments.
  • Rights to use, acquire, or extract resources, patents, or other property the foreign country owns or controls.
  • Discharges of contractual obligations.

In most cases, the right or privilege merely to engage in business is not an economic benefit.

Dual-capacity taxpayers.   If you are subject to a foreign country’s levy and you also receive a specific economic benefit from that foreign country, you are a “dual-capacity taxpayer.” As a dual-capacity taxpayer, you cannot claim a credit for any part of the foreign levy, unless you establish that the amount paid under a distinct element of the foreign levy is a tax, rather than a compulsory payment for a direct or indirect specific economic benefit.

Pension, unemployment, and disability fund payments.   A foreign tax imposed on an individual to pay for retirement, old-age, death, survivor, unemployment, illness, or disability benefits, or for similar purposes, is not payment for a specific economic benefit if the amount of the tax does not depend on the age, life expectancy, or similar characteristics of that individual.

No deduction or credit is allowed, however, for social security taxes paid or accrued to a foreign country with which the United States has a social security agreement. For more information about these agreements, see Publication 54.

Soak-up taxes.   A foreign tax is not predominantly an income tax and does not qualify for credit to the extent it is a soak-up tax. A tax is a soak-up tax to the extent that liability for it depends on the availability of a credit for it against income tax imposed by another country. This rule applies only if and to the extent that the foreign tax would not be imposed if the credit were not available.

Penalties and interest.   Amounts paid to a foreign government to satisfy a liability for interest, fines, penalties, or any similar obligation are not taxes and do not qualify for the credit.

Taxes not based on income.   Foreign taxes based on gross receipts or the number of units produced, rather than on realized net income, do not qualify unless they are imposed in lieu of an income tax, as discussed next. Taxes based on assets, such as property taxes, do not qualify for the credit.

Taxes in Lieu of Income Taxes

A tax paid or accrued to a foreign country qualifies for the credit if it is imposed in lieu of an income tax otherwise generally imposed. A foreign levy is a tax in lieu of an income tax only if:

  • It is not payment for a specific economic benefit as discussed earlier, and
  • The tax is imposed in place of, and not in addition to, an income tax otherwise generally imposed.

A tax in lieu of an income tax does not have to be based on realized net income. A foreign tax imposed on gross income, gross receipts or sales, or the number of units produced or exported can qualify for the credit.

In most cases, a soak-up tax (discussed earlier) does not qualify as a tax in lieu of an income tax. However, if the foreign country imposes a soak-up tax in lieu of an income tax, the amount that does not qualify for foreign tax credit is the lesser of the following amounts.

  • The soak-up tax.
  • The foreign tax you paid that is more than the amount you would have paid if you had been subject to the generally imposed income tax.

Foreign Taxes for Which You Cannot Take a Credit

This part discusses the foreign taxes for which you cannot take a credit. These are:

  • Taxes on excluded income,
  • Taxes for which you can only take an itemized deduction,
  • Taxes on foreign mineral income,
  • Taxes from international boycott operations,
  • A portion of taxes on combined foreign oil and gas income,
  • Taxes of U.S. persons controlling foreign corporations and partnerships who fail to file required information returns, and
  • Taxes related to a foreign tax splitting event.

Taxes on Excluded Income

You cannot take a credit for foreign taxes paid or accrued on certain income that is excluded from U.S. gross income.

Foreign Earned Income and Housing Exclusions

You must reduce your foreign taxes available for the credit by the amount of those taxes paid or accrued on income that is excluded from U.S. income under the foreign earned income exclusion or the foreign housing exclusion. See Publication 54 for more information on the foreign earned income and housing exclusions.

Wages completely excluded.   If your wages are completely excluded, you cannot take a credit for any of the foreign taxes paid or accrued on these wages.

Wages partly excluded.   If only part of your wages is excluded, you cannot take a credit for the foreign income taxes allocable to the excluded part. You find the amount allocable to your excluded wages by multiplying the foreign tax paid or accrued on foreign earned income received or accrued during the tax year by a fraction.

The numerator of the fraction is your foreign earned income and housing amounts excluded under the foreign earned income and housing exclusions for the tax year minus otherwise deductible expenses definitely related and properly apportioned to that income. Deductible expenses do not include the foreign housing deduction.

The denominator is your total foreign earned income received or accrued during the tax year minus all deductible expenses allocable to that income (including the foreign housing deduction). If the foreign law taxes foreign earned income and some other income (for example, earned income from U.S. sources or a type of income not subject to U.S. tax), and the taxes on the other income cannot be segregated, the denominator of the fraction is the total amount of income subject to the foreign tax minus deductible expenses allocable to that income.

Taxes on Income From Puerto Rico Exempt From U.S. Tax

If you have income from Puerto Rican sources that is not taxable, you must reduce your foreign taxes paid or accrued by the taxes allocable to the exempt income. For information on figuring the reduction, see Publication 570.

Possession Exclusion

If you are a bona fide resident of American Samoa and exclude income from sources in American Samoa, you cannot take a credit for the taxes you pay or accrue on the excluded income. For more information on this exclusion, see Publication 570.

Extraterritorial Income Exclusion

You cannot take a credit for taxes you pay on qualifying foreign trade income excluded on Form 8873, Extraterritorial Income Exclusion. However, see Internal Revenue Code section 943(d) for an exception for certain withholding taxes.

Taxes for Which You Can Only Take an Itemized Deduction

You cannot claim a foreign tax credit for foreign income taxes paid or accrued under the following circumstances. However, you can claim an itemized deduction for these taxes.

Taxes Imposed By Sanctioned Countries (Section 901(j) Income)

You cannot claim a foreign tax credit for income taxes paid or accrued to any country if the income giving rise to the tax is for a period (the sanction period) during which:

  • The Secretary of State has designated the country as one that repeatedly provides support for acts of international terrorism,
  • The United States has severed or does not conduct diplomatic relations with the country, or
  • The United States does not recognize the country’s government, unless that government is eligible to purchase defense articles or services under the Arms Export Control Act.

The following countries meet this description for 2012. Income taxes paid or accrued to these countries in 2012 do not qualify for the credit.

  • Cuba.
  • Iran.
  • Libya (but see Note later).
  • North Korea.
  • Sudan.
  • Syria.

Income that is paid through one or more entities is treated as coming from a foreign country listed above if the original source of the income is from one of the listed countries.

Waiver of denial of the credit.   A waiver can be granted to a sanctioned country if the President of the United States determines that granting the waiver is in the national interest of the United States and will expand trade and investment opportunities for U.S. companies in the sanctioned country. The President must report to Congress his intentions to grant the waiver and his reasons for granting the waiver not less than 30 days before the date on which the waiver is granted.

Note.

Effective December 10, 2004, the president granted a waiver to Libya. Income taxes arising on or after this date qualify for the credit if they meet the other requirements in this publication.

Limit on credit.   In figuring the foreign tax credit limit, discussed later, income from a sanctioned country is a separate category of foreign income unless a Presidential waiver is granted. You must fill out a separate Form 1116 for this income. This will prevent you from claiming a credit for foreign taxes paid or accrued to the sanctioned country.

Taxes Imposed on Certain Dividends

You cannot claim a foreign tax credit for withholding tax (defined later) on dividends paid or accrued if either of the following applies to the dividends.

  1. The dividends are on stock you held for less than 16 days during the 31-day period that begins 15 days before the ex-dividend date (defined later).
  2. The dividends are for a period or periods totaling more than 366 days on preferred stock you held for less than 46 days during the 91-day period that begins 45 days before the ex-dividend date. If the dividend is not for more than 366 days, rule (1) applies to the preferred stock.

When figuring how long you held the stock, count the day you sold it, but do not count the day you acquired it or any days on which you were protected from risk or loss.

Regardless of how long you held the stock, you cannot claim the credit to the extent you have an obligation under a short sale or otherwise to make payments related to the dividend for positions in substantially similar or related property.

Withholding tax.   For this purpose, withholding tax includes any tax determined on a gross basis. It does not include any tax which is in the nature of a prepayment of a tax imposed on a net basis.

Ex-dividend date.   The ex-dividend date is the first date following the declaration of a dividend on which the purchaser of a stock is not entitled to receive the next dividend payment.

Taxes Withheld on Income or Gain (Other Than Dividends)

For income or gain (other than dividends) paid or accrued on property, you cannot claim a foreign tax credit for withholding tax (defined later):

  • If you have not held the property for at least 16 days during the 31-day period that begins 15 days before the date on which the right to receive the payment arises, or
  • To the extent you have to make related payments on positions in substantially similar or related property.

When figuring how long you held the property, count the day you sold it, but do not count the day you acquired it or any days on which you were protected from risk or loss.

Withholding tax.   For this purpose, withholding tax includes any tax determined on a gross basis. It does not include any tax which is in the nature of a prepayment of a tax imposed on a net basis.

Exception for dealers.   If you are a dealer in property who actively conducts business in a foreign country, you may be able to claim a foreign tax credit for qualified taxes withheld on income or gain from that property regardless of how long you held it or whether you have to make related payments on positions in similar or related property. See section 901(I)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code for more information.

Covered Asset Acquisition

You cannot take a credit for the disqualified portion of any foreign tax paid or accrued in connection with a covered asset acquisition. A covered asset acquisition includes certain acquisitions that result in a stepped-up basis for U.S. tax purposes but not for foreign tax purposes. For more information, see Internal Revenue Code section 901(m). The IRS intends to issue guidance that will explain this provision in greater detail.

Taxes in Connection With the Purchase or Sale of Oil or Gas

You cannot claim a foreign tax credit for taxes paid or accrued to a foreign country in connection with the purchase or sale of oil or gas extracted in that country if you do not have an economic interest in the oil or gas, and the purchase price or sales price is different from the fair market value of the oil or gas at the time of purchase or sale.

Taxes on Foreign Mineral Income

You must reduce any taxes paid or accrued to a foreign country or possession on mineral income from that country or possession if you were allowed a deduction for percentage depletion for any part of the mineral income. For details, see Regulations section 1.901-3.

Taxes From International Boycott Operations

If you participate in or cooperate with an international boycott during the tax year, your foreign taxes resulting from boycott activities will reduce the total taxes available for credit. See the instructions for line 12 in the Form 1116 instructions to figure this reduction.

In most cases, this rule does not apply to employees with wages who are working and living in boycotting countries, or to retirees with pensions who are living in these countries.

List of boycotting countries.   A list of the countries which may require participation in or cooperation with an international boycott is published by the Department of the Treasury. As of November 2012, the following countries are listed.

  • Iraq.
  • Kuwait.
  • Lebanon.
  • Libya.
  • Qatar.
  • Saudi Arabia.
  • Syria.
  • United Arab Emirates.
  • Yemen.

Determinations of whether the boycott rule applies.   You may request a determination from the Internal Revenue Service as to whether a particular operation constitutes participation in or cooperation with an international boycott. The procedures for obtaining a determination from the Service are outlined in Revenue Procedure 77-9 in Cumulative Bulletin 1977-1. Cumulative Bulletins are available in most IRS offices and you are welcome to read them there.

Public inspection.   A determination and any related background file is open to public inspection. However, your identity and certain other information will remain confidential.

Reporting requirements.   You must file a report with the IRS if you or any of the following persons have operations in or related to a boycotting country or with the government, a company, or a national of a boycotting country.

  • A foreign corporation in which you own 10% or more of the voting power of all voting stock but only if you own the stock of the foreign corporation directly or through foreign entities.
  • A partnership in which you are a partner.
  • A trust you are treated as owning.

Form 5713 required.   If you have to file a report, you must use Form 5713, International Boycott Report, and attach all supporting schedules. See the Instructions for Form 5713 for information on when and where to file the form.

Penalty for failure to file.   If you willfully fail to make a report, in addition to other penalties, you may be fined $25,000 or imprisoned for no more than one year, or both.

Taxes on Combined Foreign Oil and Gas Income

You must reduce your foreign taxes by a portion of any foreign taxes imposed on combined foreign oil and gas income. The amount of the reduction is the amount by which your foreign oil and gas taxes exceed the amount of your combined foreign oil and gas income multiplied by a fraction equal to your pre-credit U.S. tax liability (Form 1040, line 44) divided by your worldwide taxable income. You may be entitled to carry over to other years taxes reduced under this rule. See Internal Revenue Code section 907(f).

Combined foreign oil and gas income means the sum of foreign oil related income and foreign oil and gas extraction income. Foreign oil and gas taxes are the sum of foreign oil and gas extraction taxes and foreign oil related taxes.

Taxes of U.S. Persons Controlling Foreign Corporations and Partnerships

If you had control of a foreign corporation or a foreign partnership for the annual accounting period of that corporation or partnership that ended with or within your tax year, you may have to file an annual information return. If you do not file the required information return, you may have to reduce the foreign taxes that may be used for the foreign tax credit.

U.S. persons controlling foreign corporations.   If you are a U.S. citizen or resident who had control of a foreign corporation for an uninterrupted period of at least 30 days during the annual accounting period of that corporation, you may have to file an annual information return on Form 5471, Information Return of U.S. Persons With Respect To Certain Foreign Corporations. Under this rule, you generally had control of a foreign corporation if at any time during the corporation’s tax year you owned:

  • Stock possessing more than 50% of the total combined voting power of all classes of stock entitled to vote, or
  • More than 50% of the total value of shares of all classes of stock of the foreign corporation.

U.S. persons controlling foreign partnerships.   If you are a U.S. citizen or resident who had control of a foreign partnership at any time during the partnership’s tax year, you may have to file an annual information return on Form 8865, Return of U.S. Persons With Respect to Certain Foreign Partnerships. Under this rule, you generally had control of the partnership if you owned more than 50% of the capital or profits interest, or an interest to which 50% of the deductions or losses were allocated.

You also may have to file Form 8865 if at any time during the tax year of the partnership, you owned a 10% or greater interest in the partnership while the partnership was controlled by U.S. persons owning at least a 10% interest. See the Instructions for Form 8865 for more information.

Penalty for not filing Form 5471 or Form 8865.   In most cases, there is a penalty of $10,000 for each annual accounting period for which you fail to furnish information. Additional penalties apply if the failure continues for more than 90 days after the day on which notice of the failure to furnish the information is mailed.

If you fail to file either Form 5471 or Form 8865 when due, you may also be required to reduce by 10% all foreign taxes that may be used for the foreign tax credit. This 10% reduction shall not exceed the greater of $10,000 or the income of the foreign corporation or foreign partnership for the accounting period for which the failure occurs. This foreign tax credit penalty is also reduced by the amount of the dollar penalty imposed.

 

SEE ALSO

FAQs – FOREIGN BANK ACCOUNT REPORTS | FBAR

FAQs – FOREIGN FINANCIAL ACCOUNTS

WITHHOLDING TAX ON NONRESIDENT ALIENS & FOREIGN ENTITIES

INTERNATIONAL SERVICES

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