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IRS.gov Website
Instructions for Form 8839
taxmap/instr2/i8839-004.htm#TXMP58f15b1b

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Carryforward From Prior Years (2005–2009)(p3)

rule
From 1997 through 2009, the adoption credit had a 5-year carryforward provision. Because the carryforwards are used on a first-in, first-out basis, if you are claiming a carryforward you must have a Form 8839 on file for all prior years for which the carryforward was allowable.
taxmap/instr2/i8839-004.htm#TXMP1c21ab0c
taxmap/instr2/i8839-004.htm#TXMP4d6f7056
Amending prior year returns.(p3)
rule
If you did not previously file Form 8839 for the same adoption (or adoption attempt) but are claiming a credit carryforward in 2010, you must amend your prior year income tax returns and file Form 8839 for the applicable years before you claim a credit carryforward in 2010.
caution
Amending prior year returns may have an effect on other credits claimed in that year, including, but not limited to, the child tax credit.

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Example.(p3)

In 2008, Naomi White adopted an eligible child. Naomi's allowable credit was $11,650 (the 2008 dollar limitation), but Naomi had no tax liability for the year. Because Naomi would have received no tax benefit from the credit, she did not file a 2008 Form 8839. Naomi also did not file a Form 8839 for 2009. For 2010, Naomi files a Form 8839 in which she claims a carryforward from 2008. Before Naomi's 2010 Form 8839 can be processed, Naomi must file amended returns for 2008 and 2009, attaching Forms 8839 for those years and showing the amount (if any) that she could claim for those years.
taxtip
Use Form 1040X, Amended Individual Income Tax Return, if you are filing an amended income tax return. Form 1040X and its instructions are available at IRS.gov. You will also need the instructions (including worksheets) for the return you are amending, along with that year's Form 8839 and instructions. See the Instructions for Form 1040X for details on how to obtain prior year forms and instructions.
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Credit and income limitations.(p3)
rule
The credit and income limitations that apply to a carryforward are based on the limits in effect for the year the carryforward first arose, rather than the year or years in which the carryforward is claimed. If you did not pay additional adoption expenses in a later year related to that adoption or adoption attempt, you cannot increase your carryforward amount in a later year.

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Example 1.(p3)

Steve Thomas paid qualified adoption expenses in 2004, 2005, and 2006 in connection with the adoption of an eligible child from another country. The adoption became final in 2006. Under the rules applicable to foreign adoptions, the qualified adoption expenses are all treated as if paid in 2006 and are all subject to the 2006 dollar and income limitations. The maximum tax credit in 2006 was $10,960, and Steve's income in 2006 was less than the modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) phaseout. Steve's tax liability for 2006 was $7,500. Steve used $7,500 of his adoption credit to reduce his 2006 tax liability to zero and carried forward the remaining $3,460. Steve paid no additional adoption expenses in connection with the adoption in later years.
Steve filed Forms 8839 for 2007, 2008, and 2009, but he was unable to use any carryforward during those years. For 2010, Steve filed a Form 8839 seeking a refund of his unused carryforward. Even though the 2010 dollar limitation on the credit is $13,170, Steve's refundable credit for 2010 is $3,460 ($10,960 – $7,500).

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Example 2.(p3)

The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that Steve Thomas sold a business in 2006, which resulted in his MAGI for the year being $210,000. The income limitation (MAGI phaseout range) for 2006 began at $164,410 and ended at $204,410. Because Steve's MAGI for 2006 was greater than $204,410, Steve's credit for 2006 is permanently disallowed. Steve can neither claim the credit on his 2006 return nor carry forward the credit into later years.
The following table shows the maximum dollar limitation and modified adjusted gross income phaseout range for the previous five years.
Prior Year Credit Limitations
YearMaximum Tax CreditMAGI Phaseout Range
2010$13,170$182,520–$222,520
2009$12,150$182,180–$222,180
2008$11,650$174,730–$214,730
2007$11,390$170,820–$210,820
2006$10,960$164,410–$204,410
2005$10,630$159,450–$199,450
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Documentation required for refundable credit carryforward.(p4)
rule
You must provide the required documentation to have your claim for the refundable credit carryforward processed. See Carryforward documentation requirements on this page. You must also complete Part I, line 1 for each eligible child to document the carryforward. See Carryforward From Prior Year on page 5.
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Specific Instructions(p4)

rule
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Part I—Information About Your Eligible Child or Children 
Line 1(p4)

rule
Complete all columns that apply to the eligible child you adopted or tried to adopt and attach the appropriate documentation. If you do not give correct or complete information and attach the appropriate documentation, your credit and any exclusion may be disallowed.
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Documentation requirements.(p4)
rule
You must provide at least one of the documents described below to support your claim for each eligible child on line 1. Attach the documents to Form 8839 and file with your income tax return. Copies are acceptable unless otherwise specified. You may redact sensitive personal information from an adoption order or decree or from a special needs determination; however, the IRS may require you to provide an unredacted copy at a later date.
Be sure to write your name and social security number on each document. Because of these documentation requirements, you must file your income tax return and Form 8839 by paper only. You cannot file electronically.
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Domestic adoptions that have not been finalized.
(p4)
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For a domestic adoption that was not finalized in 2010 or earlier, attach one or more of the following documents.
  1. An adoption taxpayer identification number, obtained by the taxpayer for the child, included on the taxpayer’s income tax return (instead of attaching a document).
  2. A home study completed by an authorized placement agency.
  3. A placement agreement with an authorized placement agency.
  4. A document signed by a hospital official authorizing the release of a newborn child from the hospital to the taxpayer for legal adoption.
  5. A court document (a copy showing official seal), ordering or approving the placement of a child with the taxpayer for legal adoption.
  6. An original affidavit or notarized statement signed under penalties of perjury from an adoption attorney, government official, or other authorized person, stating that the signer:
    1. Placed or is placing a child with the taxpayer for legal adoption, or
    2. Is facilitating the adoption process for the taxpayer in an official capacity, with a description of the actions taken to facilitate the process.
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Domestic and foreign adoptions that have been finalized.
(p4)
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For domestic adoptions finalized in 2010 or before, and foreign adoptions finalized in 2010, check the box in column (g) and attach one or more of the following documents:
  1. For a domestic or foreign adoption finalized in the United States, the adoption order or decree (a copy showing official seal).
  2. For an adoption governed by the Hague Convention and finalized in another country:
    1. The Hague Adoption Certificate (Immigrating Child),
    2. The IH-3 visa, or
    3. A foreign adoption decree (a copy showing official seal) translated into English.
  3. For a foreign adoption from a country that is not party to the Hague Convention:
    1. A foreign adoption decree (a copy showing official seal) translated into English or
    2. An IR-2 or IR-3 visa.
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Adoption of child with special needs.
(p4)
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For adoption of a child with special needs, in addition to the requirements above, you must check the box in column (d) and attach a copy of the state determination of special needs to your income tax return.
For these purposes, an order or decree (a copy showing official seal) must include information establishing that the taxpayer's adoption of the eligible child has been finalized and the date it was finalized. A special needs determination must include information establishing that the state has made a determination of special needs for the eligible child.
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Carryforward documentation requirements.(p4)
rule
If you are filing Form 8839 only to claim the credit for a carryforward from a previous year (2005–2009), you must attach documentation to support your claim for the credit carryforward. If the adoption was finalized in 2010 or earlier, attach one or more of the documents listed under Domestic and foreign adoptions that have been finalized, earlier. If the adoption has not been finalized, attach one or more of the documents listed under Domestic adoptions that have not been finalized, earlier.
caution
If this is the first year that you are filing Form 8839 to claim the credit carryforward, you must amend prior year returns. See Amending prior year returns under Carryforward From Prior Years (2005–2009) on page 3.
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Attempted Adoptions(p4)

rule
If you made more than one attempt to adopt one eligible child, combine the amounts you spent and complete only the Child 1 line. Do not report the additional attempt(s) on the Child 2 or Child 3 line. Complete the Child 2 or Child 3 lines only if you adopted or tried to adopt two or three eligible children.

taxmap/instr2/i8839-004.htm#TXMP55d6c49b
Example.(p5)

You planned to adopt one child. You had one unsuccessful attempt to adopt a child and later successfully adopted a different child. Complete only the Child 1 line because you made more than one attempt to adopt one eligible child.
caution
If you filed Form 8839 for a prior year in connection with this adoption, enter your 2010 information on the same line (Child 1, Child 2, or Child 3) that you used in the prior year.
taxmap/instr2/i8839-004.htm#TXMP573a6eed

taxmap/instr2/i8839-004.htm#TXMP44a2f73f
More Than Three Eligible Children(p5)

rule
If you adopted or tried to adopt more than three eligible children, fill in and attach as many Forms 8839 as you need to list them. Also, enter See Attached to the right of the Caution below line 1.
For Part II, fill in lines 2 through 6 for each child. But fill in lines 7 through 14 on only one Form 8839. The amount on line 7 of that Form 8839 should be the combined total of the amounts on line 6 of all the Forms 8839.
For Part III, fill in lines 15 through 18 and 20 for each child. But fill in lines 19 and 21 through 27 on only one Form 8839. The amount on line 19 of that Form 8839 should be the combined total of the amounts on line 18 of all the Forms 8839. The amount on line 21 of that form should be the combined total of the amounts on line 20.
taxmap/instr2/i8839-004.htm#TXMP43344f7e

taxmap/instr2/i8839-004.htm#TXMP1f8c6377
Carryforward From Prior Year(p5)

rule
If you are claiming a credit carryforward from an adoption (or attempted adoption) in a prior year, you must include that eligible child (or children) in Part I and attach appropriate documentation. If you cannot give complete information about an eligible child you tried to adopt in a prior year because the adoption was either unsuccessful or was not final by the end of 2010, complete the entries that you can on line 1. Enter See Attached in the columns for which you do not have the information. Then attach one or more of the documents listed on page 4 under Domestic adoptions that have not been finalized.
caution
You must attach documentation to support your claim for the credit carryforward. See Documentation requirements, earlier.
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taxmap/instr2/i8839-004.htm#TXMP0791f937
Column (c)(p6)

rule
A child is disabled if the child is physically or mentally unable to take care of himself or herself.
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taxmap/instr2/i8839-004.htm#TXMP48d06ff2
Column (d)(p6)

rule
A child is a child with special needs if all three of the following statements are true.
  1. The child was a citizen or resident of the United States or its possessions at the time the adoption effort began.
  2. A state (including the District of Columbia) has determined that the child cannot or should not be returned to his or her parents' home.
  3. The state has determined that the child will not be adopted unless assistance is provided to the adoptive parents. Factors used by states to make this determination include:
    1. The child's ethnic background and age,
    2. Whether the child is a member of a minority or sibling group, and
    3. Whether the child has a medical condition or a physical, mental, or emotional handicap.
You may be able to claim a credit or exclusion for the adoption of a child with special needs even if you did not have any qualified adoption expenses. See line 20 and the instructions for line 5.
caution
If you check the box in column (d) indicating the child has special needs, be sure to attach a copy of the state's determination to Form 8839.
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taxmap/instr2/i8839-004.htm#TXMP51cb5eb1
Column (e)(p6)

rule
A child is a foreign child if he or she was not a citizen or resident of the United States or its possessions at the time the adoption effort began.
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Special rules.(p6)
rule
If you paid qualified adoption expenses in 2010 or any prior year in connection with the adoption of a foreign child and the adoption became final in 2010, you can use the total expenses you paid in 2010 and all prior years in determining the amount to enter on line 5. If you and another person (other than your spouse if filing jointly) each paid qualified adoption expenses to adopt the same child, the total qualified expenses must be divided between the two of you. You can divide it in any way you both agree.
taxmap/instr2/i8839-004.htm#w23077t01
pencil

Exclusion of Prior Year Benefits Worksheet
(for the adoption of a foreign child that became final in 2010)

1.Enter the total employer-provided adoption benefits you received in 2010 and all prior years for the adoption of the foreign child 1.
2.Enter $13,170. If you and another person (other than your spouse if filing jointly) each received employer-provided adoption benefits in 2010 or any prior year to adopt the same child, see instructions below. 2.
3.Enter the smaller of line 1 or line 2 here and on Form 8839, line 15. If necessary, cross out the preprinted amount on line 15 and enter the result above the preprinted amount 3.
Next:  
 
  • Enter -0- on Form 8839, line 16.
  • Enter the amount from line 3 above on Form 8839, line 17.
  • On Form 8839, line 18, enter the total amount of employer-provided adoption benefits received in 2010 and all prior years. On the dotted line next to line 18, enter "PYAB" and the total amount of benefits you received before 2010.
  • Complete Form 8839 through line 26. Then, complete lines 4 through 9 below to figure the amount of any prior year benefits you can exclude and the taxable benefits, if any, to enter on Form 8839, line 27.
  
4.Is the amount on your 2010 Form 8839, line 26, less than the amount on Form 8839, line 19?  
 □ No. Skip lines 4 through 6 and go to line 7.   
 □ Yes. Subtract Form 8839, line 26 from line 19 4.
5.Enter the total employer-provided adoption benefits you received before 2010 included on Form 8839, line 18, for all children 5.
6.Taxable benefits. Subtract line 5 from line 4. If zero or less, enter -0-. Enter the result here and on Form 8839, line 27. If more than zero, also include this amount on line 7 of Form 1040 or line 8 of Form 1040NR, and enter "AB" on the dotted line 6.
7.Enter the amount from Form 8839, line 267.
8.Enter the total 2010 employer-provided adoption benefits included on Form 8839, line 18, for all children 8.
9.Prior year excluded benefits. Subtract line 8 from line 7. If zero or less, stop; you cannot exclude any of your prior year benefits 9.
 Next. Figure the total you would enter on line 7 of Form 1040 or line 8 of Form 1040NR before you exclude the amount from line 9 above. Then, subtract the amount from line 9 above from that total. Enter the result on line 7 of Form 1040 or line 8 of Form 1040NR. On the dotted line next to the line for wages, enter "PYAB" and the amount from line 9 above.
Worksheet Instructions
Line 2. The maximum amount of employer-provided adoption benefits that can be excluded from income is $13,170 per child. If you and another person (other than your spouse if filing jointly) each received employer-provided adoption benefits to adopt the same child, the $13,170 limit must be divided between the two of you. You can divide it in any way you both agree. Enter your share of the $13,170 limit on line 2 of the worksheet above.
If the adoption did not become final by the end of 2010, you cannot take the adoption credit for that child in 2010. If the adoption becomes final in a later year, you may be able to take a credit for the expenses in that year.
To find out when a foreign adoption is treated as final, see Rev. Proc. 2005-31, 2005-26 I.R.B. 1374, available at www.irs.gov/irb/2005-26_IRB/ar14.html, and Rev. Proc. 2010-31, 2010-40 I.R.B. 413, available at www.irs.gov/irb/2010-40_IRB/ar10.html.
caution
The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008. The Hague Adoption Convention applies if you adopted a child from a country that is party to the Hague Adoption Convention and you filed your application and petition (Forms I-800A and I-800) with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service after March 31, 2008. See www.adoption.state.gov for more information on the Hague Adoption Convention, the application and petition, and a complete list of countries that are parties to the Convention.
If you received employer-provided adoption benefits in 2010 in connection with the adoption of a foreign child and the adoption did not become final by the end of 2010, you must include the benefits in the total entered on Form 1040, line 7, or Form 1040NR, line 8. Also, enter AB (adoption benefits) on the dotted line next to Form 1040, line 7, or Form 1040NR, line 8. If the adoption becomes final in a later year, you may be able to exclude the benefits from your income in that year.
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Exclusion of prior year benefits.
(p6)
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If you received employer-provided adoption benefits before 2010 in connection with the adoption of a foreign child and the adoption became final in 2010, you may be able to exclude part or all of those benefits from your 2010 income. To find out if you can, complete the worksheet on page 5. You also must use the worksheet to complete Form 8839, Part III, and to figure any taxable benefits to enter on Form 8839, line 27.
If the adoption of more than one eligible foreign child became final in 2010, complete lines 1 through 3 of the worksheet on page 5 separately for each foreign child and use the combined totals to complete lines 4 through 9 of the worksheet.
caution
If you check the box in column (e), you must also check the box in column (g), indicating the adoption was finalized in 2010 or earlier, and attach the appropriate documentation.
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Column (f)(p6)

rule
Enter the child's identifying number. This can be a social security number (SSN), an adoption taxpayer identification number (ATIN), or an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).
Enter the child's SSN if the child has an SSN or you will be able to get an SSN in time to file your tax return. Apply for an SSN using Form SS-5.
If you are in the process of adopting a child who is a U.S. citizen or resident alien but you cannot get an SSN for the child in time to file your return, apply for an ATIN using Form W-7A. However, if the child is not a U.S. citizen or resident alien, apply instead for an ITIN using Form W-7.
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Column (g)(p6)

rule
Check the box in column (g) if the adoption for each child became final in 2010 or earlier.
caution
Attach the appropriate documentation, listed beginning on page 4, supporting your claim for a finalized adoption for each child for whom you checked this box.