Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Non-US writers - applying for an EIN (Or US Tax for Dummies)

There are a few blog posts dedicated to this subject but I wanted to create a simple, straight-forward guide to apply for an EIN. The other blog posts are great if you have more complex questions but really all you need to do is make this damn phone call!

Very basically, you need this number if you don't live in the US and Amazon, plus other US based publishing companies, are witholding your tax from you. This amounts to 30% of your royalties so it is essential that you do it as soon as possible.

Anyone who is a 'sole-trader' or really working for themselves can apply for one. There is some confusion here, with people believing they have to go through the insanely complex process of applying for a ITIN or an Individual Tax Identification number which involves having your passport sent to Texas (apparently)!

If you do not want Amazon to withold 30% of your royalties, here is what you need to do:


+1 267 941 1099 or from landline phone 001 267 941 1099

  • I phoned at around 2pm GMT time and got through within 2 minutes.
  • Press 3 (obviously check this is the right option) - Applying for a EIN as a foreign entity.
  • Struggle to understand women on other end of phone (like me) and state that you are applying for an EIN as a foreign entity.
  • They may ask if you have filled out a SS-4 form. You don't need to do this and its another complex process. I stated that it said on their website that I did not need to.
  • Once I stated I was sole-proprietor, she agreed that I didn't need to. It seems that most are giving in at this point but if you come across someone stubborn, end the call and try again.
  • Then starts the process of trying and failing many times to spell out my name, address and postcode. They will also ask for your phone number. Unless you are publishing under a business name, simply state that you are using your name when asked.
  • *Note, try not to allow your accent to thicken as mine did. By the end of it I was speaking like the queen. This did NOT help matters.
  • After stumbling along, you will be issued with an  EIN. Make sure you make a note of it, in several places if possible. And confirm it with the person on the other end. This took about 5 tries for us. 8 and A sound very similar to my ears in a US accent!
  • You will also receive your EIN in the post at some point. The lovely lady stated it would take up to 6 weeks but it seems to vary.
  • Lovely Lady finally warmed to me when I thanked her for her help in my ridiculous accent. Done!
  • Now fill in the W8-BEN form. It looks daunting but if you're English, you're used to filling forms.  The instructions for it are here.
You need to complete a separate form for each publisher. Keep the alcohol handy.

Send off your completed forms with a cover letter:
-Amazon KDP: Attn. Vendor Maintenance, PO Box 80683, Seattle, WA 98108-0683, USA.
-Smashwords: Tax Compliance Dept., 15951 Los Gatos Blvd., Ste 16 Los Gatoes, CA 95032, USA.
-CreateSpace: 8329 West Sunset Road, Suite 200, Las Vegas, NV, 89113, USA.

Drink that drink!


  1. Hi Samantha. Wish I'd known that a couple of years ago! I didn't have a passport or driving license at the time and spent many frustrating hours trying to get through to the American Embassy to ask if a UK Citizen's Card would do as proof of identity. Eventally a dear from in the US 'phoned direct for me and the answer was, 'Yes, it's fine'. (A Citizen Card costs about £12.50 and is fairly easy to get hold of.) I duly sent it off to the AE and got it back fairly quickly - they then sent off a copy and the application to Texas and three months (yes, three months) later I received my ITIN. The hardest part of the whole precess was getting confirmation that they'd accept a Citizen Card as ID. The rest was reasonably straight forward, but very,very time consuming.
    I'm sure this info will save others a lot of frustration, Samantha!

  2. I had heard of it taking 3 months or more - ridiculous if you ask me! The EIN route is more widely known now I think but there is still doubts as to whether just anyone can apply for it - but as you see the IRS did confirm that as a self-employed author, I could. It was not the most fun phone call of my life, but certain easier than going down the ITIN road.

  3. Hi Samantha - thanks so much for bringing this to my attention!
    It took me almost 30 minutes (18 waiting on hold and then 11 of carefully spelling out my information) but now I've got my EIN.
    One update to your wonderful step-by-step guide is that you need to press #1 when you connect not #3.
    Now I'll send it off to Amazon and wait for them to start paying me in full.
    Since I've already booked my train ticket, I might also go up to the US embassy on Thursday and get an ITIN just to be on the safe side!
    Cheers, Huw