Form 1120-F: What Expat Business Owners Need to Know

Form 1120-F: What Expat Business Owners Need to Know


If your foreign corporation does business in the US, you may be required to file IRS Form 1120-F. In this guide, you’ll learn what Form 1120-F is and who has to file it.  

Key Takeaways

  • Form 1120-F is a tax return filed by foreign corporations to report their income from sources in the United States, such as interest, dividends, royalties and rents.
  • Any foreign corporation doing business in the U.S. must file Form 1120-F if its gross receipts are $500,000 or more on its U.S. source income.
  • Form 1120-F differs from Form 1120 in that it excludes interest, dividends and royalties derived outside of the U.S., as well as rent paid to unrelated parties outside of the U.S., while Form 1120 includes such items in taxable income on Line 12 of Part I.

What Is Form 1120-F? 

Form 1120-F is the form certain foreign corporations must use to report their financial information to the IRS. This form serves as the foreign corporation’s income tax return in the US and includes an overview of the corporation’s income, gains, and losses. It also allows foreign corporations to claim any tax deductions and credits. 

The Difference between Form 1120 and Form 1120-F 

There are a few different forms within the IRS 1120 series, each formatted for different entities. 

  • Form 1120 is the income tax return for domestic C corporations 
  • Form 1120-S is the income tax return for domestic S corporations 
  • Form 1120-C is the income tax return for domestic cooperative associations 
  • Form 1120-H is the income tax return for domestic homeowner associations 
  • Form 1120-F is the income tax return for certain foreign corporations 

Who Has to File Form 1120-F? 

Most foreign corporations will have to file Form 1120-F if they have “effectively connected” income with a US trade or business. In most cases, this means that a foreign corporation sells products or provides a service in the US. Alternatively, it may mean that the foreign corporation has some physical presence in the US, such as an employee, office, or warehouse. 

For example, let’s say a corporation based in Germany manufactures machinery parts. As part of their business model, they sell these parts online, many of which US-based companies purchase in bulk. Most likely, this corporation would have effectively connected income and be required to file this form.

However, the concept of effectively connected income is incredibly complex. We recommend always consulting an expat tax specialist when determining whether you must file this form. 

Even if you don’t have to file Form 1120-F, it may still be wise. Some foreign corporations can claim tax credits and deductions that wouldn’t otherwise be available. This is known as protective filing, which protects your rights to certain tax benefits. 

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When Is Form 1120-F Due? 

The deadline for Form 1120-F depends on whether your foreign corporation has a physical presence in the US. 

  • If you have an office, warehouse, or fixed place of business within the US, the deadline is March 15 
  • If you don’t have a physical presence in the US, the deadline is June 15 

In either case, you can request a six-month extension to file by submitting IRS Form 7004. 

Important

An extension to file is not an extension to pay. If your foreign corporation will owe any taxes on your Form 1120-F tax return, you are still required to pay that debt by the original deadline.

What Is the Penalty for Failing to File Form 1120-F? 

If you fail to file when required, you may face penalties. These penalties start at 5% of the unpaid tax per month, up to a maximum penalty of 25%. If you’re behind on your filing, don’t panic—we can help you use the IRS Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures to get caught up without facing any additional penalties

How to File Form 1120-F 

Form 1120-F is eight pages long and requests detailed information about your corporation’s income and financial standing. You will then use this information to calculate your US tax liability. 

The IRS estimates that it will take taxpayers more than 70 hours to complete this form. This does not include the time needed to learn about the laws or gather the necessary documentation. 

Because of this form’s complexity and time-consuming nature, it’s always best to enlist the help of a qualified tax professional. 

For more details, see the Form 1120-F instructions provided by the IRS

Can I E-file Form 1120-F? 

Yes, most foreign corporations can file Form 1120-F electronically, as well as any related forms, schedules, and attachments. In some cases, e-filing may even be mandatory. 

For example, corporations whose total assets are valued at least $10 million and who file at least 250 returns per year are typically required to e-file this form. (You can request a waiver for this requirement in some instances.) 

Filing Form 1120-F Doesn’t Need to Be Complicated 

We hope this guide has given you a better understanding of what Form 1120-F is and how it works. If you still have questions, reach out to us, and we’ll happily answer them. In fact, we can even fill out and file your expat tax return on your behalf. Contact us, and we’d be happy to help you.

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