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Tax Treaty Overview

The United States has income tax treaties with a number of foreign countries. Under these treaties, residents (not necessarily citizens) of foreign countries are taxed at a reduced rate, or are exempt from U.S. income taxes on certain items of income they receive from sources within the United States. These reduced rates and exemptions vary among countries and specific items of income.

If the treaty does not cover a particular kind of income, or if there is no treaty between your country and the United States, you must pay tax on the income in the same way and at the same rates shown in the instructions for Form 1040NR. Also see Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, and Publication 515, Withholding of Tax on Nonresident Aliens and Foreign Entities.

Many of the individual states of the United States tax the income of their residents. Some states honor the provisions of U.S. tax treaties and some states do not. Therefore, you should consult the tax authorities of the state in which you live to find out if that state taxes the income of individuals and, if so, whether the tax applies to any of your income, or whether your income tax treaty applies in the state in which you live.

Tax treaties reduce the U.S. taxes of residents of foreign countries. With certain exceptions, they do not reduce the U.S. taxes of U.S. citizens or residents. U.S. citizens and residents are subject to U.S. income tax on their worldwide income.

Treaty provisions generally are reciprocal (apply to both treaty countries). Therefore, a U.S. citizen or resident who receives income from a treaty country and who is subject to taxes imposed by foreign countries may be entitled to certain credits, deductions, exemptions, and reductions in the rate of taxes of those foreign countries. Treaty benefits generally are available to residents of the United States. They generally are not available to U.S. citizens who do not reside in the United States. However, certain treaty benefits and safeguards, such as the nondiscrimination provisions, are available to U.S. citizens residing in the treaty countries. U.S. citizens residing in a foreign country may also be entitled to benefits under that country's tax treaties with third countries.

Foreign taxing authorities sometimes require certification from the U.S. Government that an applicant filed an income tax return as a U.S. citizen or resident, as part of the proof of entitlement to the treaty benefits. For information on this, refer to Form 8802, Application for United States Residency Certification – Additional Certification Requests. In addition, refer to the discussion at Form 6166 - Certification of U.S. Tax Residency.

Note: You should carefully examine the specific treaty articles that may apply to find if you are entitled to a:

  • tax credit,
  • tax exemption,
  • reduced rate of tax, or
  • other treaty benefit or safeguard.

References/Related Topics

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 16-Dec-2014