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What Foreign Taxes Qualify for the Credit?
Generally, the following four tests must be met for any foreign tax to qualify for the credit.
Certain foreign taxes do not qualify for the credit even if the four tests are met. See Foreign Taxes for Which You Cannot Take a Credit, later.
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, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, 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
Generally, 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.
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, 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 a Form 1099-DIV, or similar statement, showing the foreign country or U.S. possession, 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 credits 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 and 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, since 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.
Example. You are a shareholder of a French corporation. You receive a $100 refund of the tax paid to France by the corporation on the earnings distributed to you as a dividend. The French government imposes a 15% withholding tax ($15) on the refund you received. You receive a check for $85. You include $100 in your income. The $15 of tax withheld is a qualified foreign tax.
Tax Must Be an Income Tax (or Tax in Lieu of Income Tax)
Generally, only income, war profits, and excess profits taxes (income taxes) qualify for the foreign tax credit. Foreign taxes on wages, dividends, interest, and royalties generally qualify for the credit. 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. See Taxes in Lieu of Income Taxes, later.
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 tests.
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. Generally, 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:
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 some part of the benefit.
However, see the exception discussed later under Pension, unemployment, and disability fund payments.
Economic benefits. Economic benefits include the following.
Generally, 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.
For more information on
how to establish amounts paid under separate elements of a levy, write to:
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.
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.
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 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:
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.
A soak-up tax (discussed earlier) generally 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.