Murray's Blog

W-8BEN (U.S. Tax Withholding)

One of my clients in the U.S. requires me to fill out a W-8BEN IRS form. This is quite normal and probably should have happened with my other clients. It allows them to not withhold 30% of my payments, because I’ll be taxed on that income in my own country, under income tax treaties, and double-taxation would be unkind.

However, to get that exemption, W-8BEN seems to require that I have, or apply-for, an SSN (Social Security Number) or ITN. The W-8BEN instructions suggest that SSN is what I should have, but the suggested SS-5 form for getting one demands that I “provide a document from the U.S. government agency that explains why you need a Social Security number and that you meet all of the requirements for a Federal benefit except for the number.” What agency? W-8BEN told me to get it. W-8BEN, talk to SS-5.

The alternative, ITN (Individual Taxpayer Identification), which I can obtain via a W-7 form, should only be provided if I’m not eligible for an SSN. I’m not sure if I’m eligible.

And both the SSN and ITN application forms seem to rquire that I supply originals of identification documents, usually a passport. I’m not that happy about sending my passport to the U.S. for a few weeks.

Help?

Update: It’s amazing how quickly I can get such good advice via my blog. Thanks. It seems like a visit to the U.S. consulate/embassy is the way to do this.

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