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Rev. date: 12/16/2014

Foreign Tax Credit

Tax Topic 856
The foreign tax credit intends to reduce the double tax burden that would otherwise arise when foreign source income is taxed by both the United States and the foreign country from which the income is derived.
The tax must meet four tests to qualify for the credit:
  1. The tax must be a legal and actual foreign tax liability
  2. The tax must be imposed on you
  3. You must have paid or accrued the tax, and
  4. The tax must be an income tax (or a tax in lieu of an income tax)
Generally, only income taxes paid or accrued to a foreign country or a U.S. possession (also referred to as a U.S. territory), or taxes paid or accrued to a foreign country or U.S. possession in lieu of an income tax, will qualify for the foreign tax credit. Qualified foreign taxes do not include:
You can choose to take the amount of any qualified foreign taxes paid during the year as a foreign tax credit or as an itemized deduction. To choose the deduction, you must itemize deductions on Form 1040 (Schedule A). To choose the foreign tax credit you generally must complete Form 1116 and attach it to your Form 1040 or Form 1040-NR. You must choose either the foreign tax credit or itemized deduction for all foreign taxes paid or accrued during the year. This is an annual choice.
If you are a cash basis taxpayer you can only take the foreign tax credit in the year you pay the qualified foreign tax unless you elect to claim the foreign tax credit in the year the foreign taxes are accrued. Once you make this election, you cannot switch back to claiming the taxes in the year paid in later years.
You can claim the credit for qualified foreign taxes without filing Form 1116 if you meet all of the following requirements:
If you claim the credit directly on Form 1040 or Form 1040-NR without filing Form 1116, you cannot carry back or carry forward any unused foreign tax to or from this year.
If you claimed an itemized deduction for a given year for qualified foreign taxes, you can choose instead to claim a foreign tax credit that will result in a refund for that year by filing an amended return on Form 1040-X within 10 years from the original due date of your return. The 10-year period also applies to calculation corrections of your previously claimed foreign tax credit.
If the foreign income taxes you claimed as a credit are refunded or otherwise reduced, you must file an amended return on Form 1040X reporting the reduced foreign tax credit. There is no time limit on this requirement.
If you use Form 1116 to figure the credit, your foreign tax credit will be the smaller of the amount of foreign tax paid or accrued, or the amount of United States tax attributable to your foreign source income. Compute the limit separately for passive income, income resourced under a tax treaty, income derived from sanctioned countries, and all other income.
If you cannot claim a credit for the full amount of qualified foreign income taxes you paid or accrued in the year, you are allowed a carryback and/or carryover of the unused foreign income tax. You can carry back for one year and then carry forward for 10 years the unused foreign tax. For more information on this topic (including taxes paid or accrued in years before 2007), see Publication 514, Foreign Tax Credit for Individuals.
You may not take either a credit or a deduction for taxes paid or accrued on income you exclude under the foreign earned income exclusion or the foreign housing exclusion. There is no double taxation in this situation because that income is not subject to United States tax.
For more complete information on the foreign tax credit (including information on whether a particular tax is eligible for the credit), refer to the Instructions 1116 (PDF) and Publication 514, Foreign Tax Credit for Individuals. See U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad on for more information for international taxpayers.