I ate a burger once. Does that qualify?
Do you have a U.S. TIN?
Yes. I picked it up on one of my trips to the distant planet of America. The tin held chocolate, as I recall. Does that qualify?
*For those of you thinking of self-publishing on Amazon Kindle, ask yourself if you are an American citizen. If you aren't, Uncle Sam will ask you to prove that you aren't.
Otherwise, Uncle Sam will snare 30% of your American-derived royalties in the name of truth, justice, and the American Way. Mom's apple pie on Sundays may feature further down the list.
Should Uncle Sam grab 30% of your readies, remember that this doesn't entitle you to vote in American elections.
When I self-published on Kindle, I waded through the murky rivers of foreign taxation. Luckily I proved I wasn't American, and the cash-grab faded.
At the time, I remember asking Amazon if I'd have to fill the paperwork out all over again, say, five years down the line...
No, of course not.
Amazon contacted me today, months ahead of the deadline for renewing the tax information. Would I fill out the handy form? Why, it takes but a moment on the interwebs.
The tax regime changes shape faster than the blink of a cliché. One constant remains. Tax is levied. How does it work? Uncle Sam instructs companies to withhold 30% of royalties due to bloody foreign devils.
It says that in the official paperwork.
Okay, I lied. It says danged furriners.
I had to prove I wasn't American. Then, as a foreign person, I could gain from the exemption under a prearranged tax treaty. There were plenty of ways to do this, when I handled the paperwork first time around...
And it was paperwork. First, I obtained an Individual Tax Identification Number from Uncle Sam.
Of the many options available, I found the cheapest method was to send my passport to the American Embassy. Opting for the cheapest threadbare path, it was easy to prove I was Scottish and not American.
They may take our lives, but they'll never fake our accents!
Being un-American, or non-American, I received the go-ahead from a tax bunker in Texas. The ITIN arrived. I filled out a stock letter for Amazon, and threw the reference in.
Nothing happened. The letter never reached Amazon HQ. I sent a fresh copy and I was done and dusted.
There's a section on tax information inside each author's Amazon Bookshelf. Here's the relevant slice of the page...
Being decidedly Scottish, I am puzzled to find the info reached Amazon on the eighth day of the 17th month of the year. What sort of Tolkienised calendar are they using over in the States?
It's safe to say that Americans know all about second breakfast. That's served on the same hearty plate that barely contains the first breakfast.
The important thing is that my withheld tax rate is a healthy 0% of my American royalties. My Individual Tax Identification Number grants access to the shield of liberty known as the tax treaty.
If all this is news to you, go to your Amazon Bookshelf, head into your account, find that Tax Information box and click on the (What's this?) link.
That leads, eventually, to a piece about filling out all the forms so you have the tax number you'll need.
I can't give you up-to-date advice on that, not even if you are reading this on the day that I published the blog post.
Tax rules shimmer and change with the seasons. Research as much as you can, choose the least-painful option for your circumstances, and quadruple-quintuple-check the paperwork before it leaves you.
This time around, I didn't send any paperwork. Amazon directed me to the electronic tax interview. With the information to hand, I filled the e-form in an instant.
That is a lie.
I kept being bounced back. Missed the box that validated my address. Red warning sign. My address was not valid. WTF?! It's my address!
Oh. I have to tick the box that states my address is valid. And here, I thought they'd use software to check that I hadn't lied about living in that cardboard box.
Unfurling my Evil Laugh, I recklessly validated my address. Enough of this wild abandon. Just get me to the end of the fucking process, will you?
And there it went. Zap. Into the ether. Done.
Not American, but planning to self-publish on Amazon? Pay attention to the tax section inside your Amazon Bookshelf. There are plenty of links there to the relevant Amazon guides on avoiding 30% Federal Withholding Tax.
You'll need an ITIN to claim the benefits of the tax treaty. Then you are in the clear.
If I misremember rightly, you'll want to sort this mess out BEFORE you start earning American royalties. Otherwise, you'll need to file an appeal to claw back any money grabbed in the meantime.