Carbon doping via CBr4 in AlGaN/GaN high electron mobility transistors grown by rf-plasma-assisted molecular beam epitaxy on 4H–SiC (0001) was investigated as a means to reduce buffer leakage. For carbon doping in the first 400 nm of the structure, a significant decrease in buffer leakage was observed with increasing overall carbon concentration. A carbon doping scheme in which the level of doping is tapered from 6×1017 cm-3 down to 2×1017 cm-3 was found to result in sufficiently low drain-source leakage currents. The effect of thickness of the GaN:C layer was explored as well as the effect of thickness of the subsequent unintentionally doped GaN layer. For structures with reduced leakage, rf I–V and power measurements revealed better performance in structures in which the two-dimensional electron gas was spaced at a large distance from the GaN:C layer. Possible sources and locations of unintentional free carriers contributing to leakage in these structures are discussed in light of the results. © 2004 American Vacuum Society.