There is an alternative – instead you call a dedicated US tax office in Philadelphia and simply ask for an alternative form of ITIN called an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for a foreign entity. But wait you say, you’re not an employer. Well, it works just as well for sole traders / proprietors.
I called the US IRS on +1 267 941 1099 via Skype on my laptop and the 11 minute call from the UK cost me 20p, although I’m told that you can call for free from Google Talk. They will ask you for your phone number so be sure to give them your landline / mobile. Follow the automated options (it was 1 or 2), wait in the queue and then when answered tell them that you want to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for a foreign entity.
The nice lady I spoke to (she even called me sir in that marvellous American way) asked if I had completed a SS-4 form. She was disappointed when I answered “no” but admitted that it was not mandatory. Then I had to spell out my information (name, address, phone number, country etc.) and confirm it when she read it back.
She then asked if it was for ‘compliance with withholding’ tax. I confirmed that it was and she asked what it was for. When I told her it was for selling eBooks she wished me luck and then read out my EIN. I made a note of it and kept it very, very safe. She said that that they would send me a conformation letter but so far I’ve not received it.
Then all you have to do is complete the Amazon on-line W8-BEN form and give them your brand spanking new EIN number, and that’s where it all went wrong for me.
My Amazon KDP account said “Submitted. Your tax information has been submitted and is under review by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Tax information cannot be changed during this time. Your account status will be updated if further information is necessary.” They then contacted me to say that they had no record of it or I had filled the form in incorrectly or something.
I resubmitted my info, got the above message again and waited for confirmation. Except that now I’m left in limbo, as the US government immediately stopped processing tax information due to the US Federal shutdown.
Those lovely people at Amazon saved the day by promising to withhold my royalties until my 0% tax rate had been confirmed. This means that I could go ahead and launch my sci-fi / horror anthology “Memes of Loss and Devotion”.
So, that’s how I sorted out my tax with just one 11 minute phone call. Maybe.