If you're a non-US author and you've noticed your royalty checks don't match your numbers online, it's most likely because a withholding tax has been implemented--30% on average. But there's a solution.
First, a non-US resident and publisher/author does NOT need a US address or a US bank account. Amazon and other retailers will pay you with a check or via direct deposit.
However, Amazon will withhold approximately 30% of all earnings of non-US residents UNLESS authors have an ITIN or EIN, which you must get from the IRS.
FYI, below is how I did it a few years ago when everyone said I needed an ITIN. But I should warn you--it's much easier now, and I'll tell you exactly what you need to do after I share my experience.
Don't apply for an ITIN!!!
1. Here's how I got my ITIN. I first contacted an "Acceptance Agent" in my city. There's a list of Canadian Acceptance Agents (and US and International Acceptance Agents) on the IRS website.
2. I had Smashwords send me a letter stating I was selling my books through them. You need one letter only from one distributor, and when I asked Amazon they were completely uncooperative and refused to send me the letter.
3. I filled out the W-7 form at the Agent's office, he photocopied my passport and he sent these out along with the letter from Smashwords (who are aweseome about giving letters).
4. It took about 7 weeks before I got my letter from the IRS with my ITIN.
5. Then I filled out the W-8BEN form and sent one to each US distributor (Amazon, Smashwords etc). From that point on, I've received 100% of my royalties due; no tax was withheld.
Smashwords has great instructions on all this on their site. I don't know why Amazon hasn't done the same. Smashwords also has links to all the forms and the address for sending the W-8BEN. Again, Amazon could take some pointers on customer service.
As per Smashwords, here are the important links you need:
Is this a hassle? Most definitely. That's why I no longer recommend this way. Get an EIN!!!
Is it worth it to get an EIN? Yes. Why should 1/3 of my earnings be held back? I'm Canadian, I pay my taxes here.
Does anyone know the correct mailing address for sending in the W-8BEN form to Amazon?
"We need to receive a physical copy (paper form) of the W8 that contains a US tax id and that is signed in blue ink. Please put the supplier code/vendor code, vendor code: DUVNS in the upper right hand corner and then mail it to the below address. As soon as we receive it, we will update the account and reimburse withholding that has been deducted this year. Note: withholding can only be paid back in the current year it was deducted.
Amazon Digital Services
Attn: Vendor Maintenance
PO Box 80683
Seattle, WA 98108-0683
If you have further questions, please write back to us at firstname.lastname@example.org."
Please note that you may want to check to ensure that the "supplier code" is the same for everyone. I have no idea if it is or if it's linked to my account only. If you know the answer, please email me at cherylktardif (at) shaw.ca.
UPDATE 3: Sept 29, 2015 - Forget the ITIN. Get an EIN instead. It's much easier and FREE!
Get a free EIN by phone via the IRS's toll-free number:
It's FREE! And easy to get. One phone call and you'll have your EIN!
Call 1-800-829-4933 today.
UPDATE: May 18, 2011 -
- Createspace will send you the letter you need to get the ITIn rolling, if you sell your books via them.
- Smashwords has a Google Chrome bug that is preventing emails to go through to them via the customer support link at the top of Smashwords.com. If you've emailed them about this or any other matter and haven't heard back from them in 3-5 days, your email may never have reached them. They're working on this issue. In the meantime, try IE or another browser.
- From Mark Coker at Smashwords: "At Smashwords, authors request the letters through their payee profile at https://www.smashwords.com/account/payee. They can request the letter once their account balance reaches $10.00."