How to File IRS Form 8833: Expert Advice for U.S. Expatriates

Jul 23, 2023

What is Form 8833?

Form 8833, “Treaty-Based Return Position Disclosure Under Section 6114 or 7701(b),” is a document that individual taxpayers use to disclose their treaty-based position to the IRS providing a reasonable explanation. This form is required if a taxpayer is claiming treaty benefits or taking a treaty position that may affect their federal income tax liability. It is important for dual-resident taxpayers and those earning income in a foreign country to complete this form accurately.

By filing Form 8833, taxpayers can prevent double taxation and ensure that they are properly utilizing the tax treaty provisions between the United States and the foreign country.

What are international tax treaties?

International tax treaties, also known as tax conventions or double tax treaties, are agreements between two countries that are designed to avoid or mitigate the double taxation of the same income. These treaties typically cover income tax, corporate tax, and other taxes that individuals and businesses may be liable for in both jurisdictions.

The main purpose of such treaties is to determine which of the two contracting states should have the right to tax specific types of income or capital, or whether there should be a division of the taxing rights between the two states. Some common income items that may be subject to a treaty position include dividends, interest, royalties, and periodic income. By disclosing these income items on Form 8833, individuals can claim the applicable tax treaty benefit that reduces their federal income tax liability. When individuals have income from U.S. sources and they are residents of a treaty country, they can claim this treaty benefits on their tax returns.

These treaties also often include provisions for cooperation and information sharing between tax authorities to prevent tax evasion and other forms of tax fraud.

Who Should File Form 8833?

Form 8833 should be filed by any taxpayer who is claiming benefits from a tax treaty that modifies or overrides provisions of the Internal Revenue Code, thereby affecting their tax obligations.

Non-U.S. residents (Nonresident Alien) who utilize Form 8833 are adhering to Section 301.6114 of the IRC, pertaining to treaty-based return provisions. On the other hand, taxpayers with dual-residency status complete this form in compliance with Section 301.7701(b)-7 of the IRC, designed to coordinate with income tax treaties. To simplify the process, the form contains a checkbox enabling you to indicate which of these scenarios apply to you.

Several key tax treaty provisions could be advantageous for you. These can include:

  • a decrease or modification in the tax on capital gains or losses from the sale of U.S.-based real estate;
  • a reduction in the tax rate on dividends or interest originating from U.S.-sourced foreign corporations;
  • or the extension of a credit for foreign taxes, which is not ordinarily permitted by the IRC.

Once you’ve ascertained that a tax treaty is applicable and potentially beneficial to your circumstances, your next course of action is to complete Form 8833 and include it with your tax return. Moreover, if you’re claiming benefits from a tax treaty that override IRC regulations, filing Form 8833 becomes a necessary step.

You don’t need to file form 8833 to claim the foreign earned income exclusion or the foreign tax credit.

When to File Form 8833?

Include Form 8833 with your applicable tax return (such as Form 1040-NR, Form 1120-F, and so forth). Even if you’re not generally required to file a tax return, you’ll need to submit one. This step is crucial in disclosing your treaty-based return position, as mandated by Section 6114.

Understanding the Specific Reporting Requirements for Form 8833

Regulations section 301.6114-1(b) lays out specific scenarios where reporting on Form 8833 is compulsory for certain treaty-based return positions. Please bear in mind that the instances outlined here do not encompass all positions that are reportable on Form 8833.

Below are key instances where reporting is mandatory:

  • When a nondiscrimination provision of a treaty hinders the execution of a normally applicable Code provision, except regarding making an election under section 897(i).
  • When a treaty modifies or reduces the taxation of gains or losses resulting from the sale of U.S. real property.
  • When a treaty alters or reduces the branch profits tax (section 884(a)) or the tax on excess interest (section 884(f)(1)(B)).
  • When a treaty provides tax exemption or lowers the tax rate on dividends or interest paid by a U.S.-sourced foreign corporation under sections 861(a)(2)(B) or 884(f)(1)(A).
  • When a treaty exempts from tax or reduces the tax rate on fixed or determinable annual or periodical (FDAP) income received by a foreign person from a U.S. person, under specific circumstances.
  • When income effectively linked to a U.S. trade or business of a taxpayer isn’t attributable to a permanent establishment or a fixed base in the United States.
  • When a treaty changes the amount of business profits of a taxpayer attributable to a permanent establishment or a fixed base in the United States.
  • When a treaty alters the source of any income or deduction item (unless the taxpayer is an individual).
  • When a treaty grants a credit for a foreign tax that the Code doesn’t allow.
  • When an individual’s residency is determined under a treaty rather than the Code.

When Filing IRS Form 8833 is Not Required?

Under Regulations Section 301.6114-1(c), certain treaty-based return positions are exempt from reporting on Form 8833. There are instances where the exemption applies specifically to a reportable treaty position. Therefore, a meticulous review of the regulations is highly recommended. Note that some waivers do not apply to positions that are explicitly required to be reported under these form instructions.

Below are some notable scenarios where reporting is waived, but this is not an exhaustive list. Please refer to Regulations section 301.6114-1(c) for other possible waivers.

  • When a treaty modifies or reduces the taxation of income gained by an individual from dependent personal services, pensions, annuities, social security, public pensions, or income generated by artists, athletes, students, trainees, or teachers.
  • When a Social Security Totalization Agreement or Diplomatic or Consular Agreement reduces or modifies a taxpayer’s income.
  • When a treaty exempts a taxpayer from the excise tax imposed by section 4371, but only if certain conditions are met. For instance, the taxpayer has entered into an insurance excise tax closing agreement with the IRS.
  • When a treaty exempts from tax or reduces the tax rate on FDAP income if the beneficial owner is an individual or governmental entity.
  • Unless modified by the instructions below, a treaty exempts from tax or reduces the tax rate on FDAP income that is properly reported on Form 1042-S, and the amount is received by a related party from a reporting corporation, a beneficial owner that is a direct account holder of a U.S. financial institution or qualified intermediary, or a taxpayer that is not an individual or a State, if the amounts are not received through an account with an intermediary and if the amounts do not total more than $500,000 for the tax year.

How to Fill Out IRS Form 8833: A Step-by-Step Guide

Identifying Your U.S. Taxpayer Number: If you’re an individual, this will be your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. For all others, this will be your Employer Identification Number. This number is essential for identification purposes on your tax return. For more information about identifying numbers, check the instructions for the tax return you’re filing alongside Form 8833.

Reference ID Number: If you’re a foreign corporation, you’ll need to input any Reference ID number assigned by a U.S. person, required for information reporting such as on Forms 5471 or 5472.

Address in Country of Residence: Write your address following this order: city, province or state, and country. Always use the standard practice of the country for entering the postal code, and don’t abbreviate the foreign country name.

Termination of U.S. Residency: If you’re a dual-resident taxpayer, and you’re filing Form 8833 to be treated as a resident of a foreign country for tax treaty purposes, be aware that you’ll be considered to have ended your U.S. residency status. You might be subject to tax under section 877A and must file Form 8854.

Line 3: Here you should list income that is fixed or determinable annual or periodical. This includes things like interest, dividends, rents, premiums, annuities, salaries, wages, and other compensations. Refer to section 871(a) and Regulations section 1.871-7(b) and (c) for more detailed information.

Line 4: This is where you specify the particular test in the Limitations on Benefits (LOB) article that is met. You can check the different tests on the IRS website. If you’ve requested a discretionary determination from the U.S. competent authority and it’s still pending, be aware that you may not claim benefits unless the treaty or technical explanation specifically says you can.

Line 5: If your answer to the question on line 5 is “Yes”, you’ll need to indicate the subsection of Regulations section 301.6114-1(b) where you’re disclosing a treaty-based return position. Also, be prepared to provide the information requested on line 6.

Line 6: This is required from all taxpayers taking a treaty-based return position. Here, you’ll need to explain why you meet the Limitation on Benefits test identified on line 4, the basis for meeting any special requirements for claiming benefits, such as those needed to be included on line 15 of Form W-8BEN-E, and the amount of the income affected by the treaty claim.

Penalties for Failing to File IRS Form 8833

If you fail to file IRS Form 8833 or do not include the necessary information, you may be subject to a penalty of $1,000 for each failure. For corporations, the penalty amount can rise to $10,000. This penalty can be imposed for each tax year for which the failure exists.

However, the penalty may be waived if the failure is due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect. It’s important to note that the IRS is strict about enforcing these penalties and the determination of “reasonable cause” is at their discretion.

At 1040 Abroad, we understand that navigating international tax laws can be complex and challenging. We’re here to make your tax filing as an expat stress-free and efficient. If you have any questions or need clarification on anything related to IRS Form 8833 or any other tax-related concerns, feel free to reach out to us at We’re committed to providing you with free, expert tax advice to ensure you have a clear understanding of your tax obligations.

In addition to our consultation services, we also offer comprehensive tax return preparation services. The completion and filing of Form 8833 is included in the regular price of our 1040 service, which is $400. We pride ourselves on being a reliable and affordable resource for U.S. expats. By choosing our services, you’re opting for a seamless, straightforward tax filing experience.

Remember, as a U.S. expat, you don’t have to face your tax responsibilities alone. Let our experts at 1040 Abroad guide you. Reach out to us today—we look forward to assisting you with your tax needs.

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