Can I claim the adoption credit for a foreign adoption?

Yes, however, there are special timing rules for foreign adoptions. These rules differ from the timing rules for domestic adoptions and impact when you may claim qualified adoption expenses.

The Tax Code provides a nonrefundable credit for qualified adoption expenses. The credit is subject to income limitations, which means that some taxpayers may not qualify for it. Generally, the credit covers adoption expenses such as fees, court costs, traveling expenses, and other expenses directly related to the adoption.


The Tax Code also distinguishes between domestic and foreign adoptions. This distinction is important due to timing rules. The IRS has explained that a domestic adoption is the adoption of a U.S. child, an eligible child who is a citizen or resident of the U.S. or its possessions before the adoption effort begins. Qualified adoption expenses paid before the year the adoption becomes final are allowable as a credit for the tax year following the year of payment, even if the adoption is never finalized and even if an eligible child was never identified.

A foreign adoption is the adoption of an eligible child who is not yet a citizen or resident of the U.S. or its possessions before the adoption effort begins. Qualified adoption expenses paid before and during the year are allowable as a credit for the year when the adoption becomes final.

Let’s look at an example. Julia pays qualified adoption expenses of $2,000 in 2015, $3,000 in 2016 and $4,000 in 2017 related to the adoption of Marisa, who is not a U.S. citizen or resident. The adoption becomes final on September 5, 2017. Because the adoption is foreign and not domestics, Julia may claim all $9,000 in expenses on her 2017 federal income tax return.

After an adoption becomes final, qualified adoption expenses paid during or after the year of finality are allowable as a credit for the year of payment, whether the adoption is foreign or domestic. In our example, Julia pays an additional $1,000 in qualified adoption expenses in 2018. Julia may claim the $1,000 in expenses on her 2018 return.

The adoption credit is just one personal tax preference that could be modified if Congress passes a tax reform bill. Under current law, as described above, there is a distinction between domestic and foreign adoptions. Please contact our office if you have any questions about the adoption credit and how it may help offset the expenses of an adoption, whether domestic or foreign.