Generally, the following four tests must be met for any foreign tax to qualify for the credit:
- The tax must be imposed on you
- You must have paid or accrued the tax
- The tax must be the legal and actual foreign tax liability
- The tax must be an income tax (or a tax in lieu of an income tax)
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.
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.
Tax must be the Legal and actual Foreign Tax Liability
Your qualified foreign tax is only the legal and actual foreign tax liability that you paid or accrued during the year. The amount of foreign tax that qualifies is not necessarily the amount of tax withheld by the foreign country. The amount of the foreign tax that qualifies for the credit must be reduced by any refunds of foreign tax made by the government of the foreign country or the U.S. possession.
Example 1: You received a $1,000 payment of interest from a Country A investment.
Country A’s withholding tax rate on interest income is 30% ($300), but you are eligible for a reduced treaty withholding rate of 15% ($150) if you provide a reduced withholding statement/certificate to the withholding agent. Your qualified foreign tax is limited to $150 based on your eligibility for the reduced treaty rate, even if $300 is actually withheld because you failed to provide the required withholding statement/certificate.
Tax Must Be an Income Tax or Tax In Lieu of Income Tax
Generally, only income, war profits, and excess profits taxes (collectively referred to as income taxes) qualify for the foreign tax credit. Foreign taxes on wages, dividends, interest, and royalties generally qualify for the credit. The tax must be a levy that is not payment for a specific economic benefit and the predominant character of the tax must be that of an income tax in the U.S. sense.
A foreign tax is not an income tax and does not qualify for the foreign tax credit to the extent it is a soak-up tax. A soak-up tax is a foreign tax that is assessed only if a tax credit is available to the taxpayer. This rule only applies if and to the extent the foreign tax would not be imposed if the credit were not available.
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. The tax must be a foreign levy that is not payment for a specific economic benefit and the tax must be imposed in place of, and not in addition to, an income tax otherwise generally imposed.
Foreign Taxes for Which You Cannot Take a Credit
The following are some foreign taxes for which you cannot take a foreign tax credit:
- Taxes on excluded income (such as the foreign earned income exclusion),
- 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,
- Taxes related to a foreign tax splitting event, and
- 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, refer to Totalization Agreements.