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  • Writer's pictureLewis Grunfeld, CPA

Guide to the US Israel Tax Treaty

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

Understanding the US Israel Tax Treaty is crucial for Americans living in Israel and to Israeli non-U.S. citizens who have U.S. sourced income. This comprehensive guide breaks down the treaty's provisions, offering clarity on how it affects personal taxation and helps avoid double taxation.

Executive Summary

  • ​The U.S. Israel tax treaty offers mechanisms to prevent double taxation.

  • The treaty includes a "Savings Clause" that maintains the US right to tax its citizens as per its domestic laws and not per the treaty with just limited exceptions.

  • US-sourced passive income, such as interest, dividends, and pensions, may be taxed at reduced rates or exempted for Israeli residents who are U.S. NRAs (non-resident aliens).

Introduction to the US Israel Tax Treaty

The US Israel tax treaty, signed in 1993, serves as an agreement between the two countries for determining the taxation of income where both nations may have the legal right to taxation according to their respective laws. The treaty covers, among other topics, avoidance of double taxation, residency tie-breakers and taxation of various forms of income, including business profits, dividends, interest, pensions, and capital gains. This article will focus on some of the key aspects of the treaty that hold particular significance.


Relief of Double Taxation

The Israeli US treaty provides mechanisms for relief from double taxation, ensuring that income earned in one country by residents or citizens of the other is not taxed twice. Specifically, the treaty allows U.S. citizens and residents to claim a foreign tax credit for the income tax they paid on Israeli sourced income to Israel against their U.S. tax liability. Conversely, Israel offers a credit for U.S. taxes paid on U.S. sourced income against it's own tax liabilities.


Example

David Cohen, a U.S. citizen living in Tel Aviv, earns an annual salary of $80,000. In Israel, he pays $25,000 in taxes for the year. David's U.S. tax liability for this income amounts to $22,000. Thanks to the relief of double taxation provision of the tax treaty, he is entitled to claim a foreign tax credit on his US taxes. David applies the $25,000 he paid in Israeli taxes against his U.S. tax obligation, effectively reducing his U.S. tax liability to zero and even generating a $3,000 credit surplus, which may be carried over to subsequent tax years.


The Savings Clause

The Israel US tax treaty contains a "savings clause" which allows the U.S. to impose taxes on its citizens according to its own laws, even if this contradicts the treaty. As a result of this clause, the majority of the benefits and reductions offered by the treaty do not apply to U.S. citizens living in Israel.


Example

Rachel Levi, a U.S. citizen, resides and works in Tel Aviv, Israel, for an American bio-tech company. She performs all her work duties in Israel and has no physical business presence in the U.S. Although the Israel U.S. tax treaty exempts such income from U.S. taxation on the basis that there is no permanent establishment in the U.S., the savings clause overrides this, requiring Rachel to declare and possibly pay U.S. taxes on her income. Nevertheless, Rachel can take advantage of foreign earned income exclusion or foreign tax credits for the taxes paid in Israel to avoid being taxed twice on the same income.

Expert Tip: It's crucial for U.S. citizens to familiarize themselves with the savings clause exclusions in all tax treaties to accurately determine which tax benefits they can utilize.

Tax Residency and the Tie-Breaker Rules

The United States and Israel each have their own criteria for determining who is a resident for tax purposes. As such, it's possible for someone to meet the residency requirements of both countries simultaneously. To prevent the problems that dual tax residency could cause, the U.S.-Israel tax treaty provides a series of tie-breaker rules. These rules help to decide which country has the primary right to tax the individual's income.

  1. Permanent Home Test: The first consideration is whether the individual has a permanent home available to them in one of the countries. If a permanent home is available in only one country, that country is generally considered the individual's country of residence for tax purposes.

  2. Centre of vital interests Test: If the individual has a permanent home in both countries or in neither country, the treaty looks at where the individuals center of vital interests lies, in other words, where they have a closer personal and economic interests.

  3. Habitual Abode Test: If the individual has a center of vital interests in both countries or in neither country, the treaty looks at where the individual has a habitual abode; in other words, where they live regularly. This could be where they spend more time or where they have a regular presence.

  4. Nationality Test: If the individual has a habitual abode in both countries or in neither, the next factor considered is nationality. If the person is a citizen of only one of the countries, that country is typically considered their country of residence for tax purposes.

  5. Mutual Agreement Procedure: In the rare case that the individual is a citizen of both countries or of neither, and the above tests do not resolve the issue of residency, the competent authorities of the United States and Israel will determine the individual's residency through a mutual agreement, taking into account the person's facts and circumstances.

Taxation of US Sourced Passive Income

Passive income from U.S. sources, which is not tied to a U.S. trade or business, is generally taxed at a flat rate of 30% if earned by a non-resident alien. However, the US Israel tax treaty lowers this rate or even totally exempts it from US taxation for certain types of income. We've summarized some of the tax treaty rates in the table below. It's important to note that that these rates generally do not apply to U.S. citizens due to the savings clause mentioned earlier.

​Tax Rate

Treaty Article Citation

​Interest

17.5%

13(2)

​Dividends - Paid by U.S. Corporations

25%

12(2)

Dividends - Qualifying for Direct Dividend Rate

12.5%

12(2)

Pensions and Alimony

0%*

20(1)

Social Security

0%

21

*The rate applies to both periodic and lump-sum payments.


Income Earned While Temporarily Present in the US

Generally, income earned from work performed in the US would be considered US source income and would be subject to US taxation. However, the US Israel tax treaty lists certain exemptions where such income is not subject to US taxes. It's important to note that these exceptions generally do not apply to U.S. citizens because of the savings clause mentioned earlier. We've summarized some of these exceptions in the table below:

​Income Type

​Maximum Presence in U.S

Required Employer or Payer

Maximum Amount of Compensation

Treaty Article Citation

​Employee*

182 days

Israeli resident*

No limit**

17

Contractor

182 days

​Any contractor

No limit

16

​Public entertainment

No limit

Any U.S. or foreign resident

$400 per day

18

​Scholarship and fellowship grant

5 years

​Any U.S. or foreign resident

No limit***

24(1)

Teaching

2 years

U.S. educational institution

No limit****

23

​Full-Time Students - remittances or allowances

5 years

Any foreign resident

No limit

24(1)

​Full-Time Students - compensation during study

5 years

​Any U.S. or foreign resident

​$3,000

​24(1)

​Full-Time Students - compensation while gaining experience

12 consecutive months

​Israeli resident

​$7,500

​24(2)

​Full-Time Students - compensation under U.S. Government program

​1 year

​U.S. Government or its contractor

​$10,000

​24(3)

*The exemption does not apply if the employee's compensation is borne by a permanent establishment that the employer has in the United States. **Exemption applies only if the compensation is subject to tax in the country of residence.

***Exemption does not apply to the extent income is attributable to the recipient's fixed U.S. base.

****Grant must be from a nonprofit organization.


No Israel U.S. Totalization Agreement

The U.S. has signed totalization agreements with may countries, aimed at preventing the double taxation of social security taxes. Unfortunately, Israel is not among these countries with which such an agreement has been made. As such, if you're self-employed in Israel, you must pay both the Israeli National Insurance (Bituach Leumi) and the U.S. self-employment tax. For many, this dual tax obligation, on top of the substantial Israeli taxes, proves to be an excessively heavy financial burden.


State Taxes and Tax Treaties

Numerous states within the United States impose income taxes on their residents. The adherence to the Israel U.S. tax treaty provisions varies by state, some may recognize them, while others may not.

​Expert Insight: Always check with a tax professional about how state tax laws interact with the treaty, as this can vary significantly from state to state.

Need Help Navigating the US Israel Tax Treaty?

At CPAs for Expats, we specialize in helping US expats stay compliant with their US taxes. Our low fees and 4.9/5 rating on independent review platforms attests to our commitment to excellence and client satisfaction. Contact us today, and let our tax experts simplify your life and taxes.




Frequently Asked Questions

Does Israel have a tax treaty with the US?

Does Israel have a totalization agreement with the US?

Do Israeli citizens pay tax on US capital gains?


Article by Lewis Grunfeld, CPA

Lewis is a seasoned expert in international and U.S. expat taxation. With over 10 years of international tax experience, he specializes in applying tax treaties to benefit expats, handling complex tax scenarios and ensuring significant tax savings for his clients. Lewis's expertise in international compliance and U.S. expat tax returns has made him a trusted advisor in the expatriate community.

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