Before I go any further with this post, I’d just like to say that I am not a financial advisor, an accountant, a lawyer, or anyone else qualified to be handing out any kind of advice. I wouldn’t even trust me with my money, and I am me, so if you do anything I talk about in this post and it goes wrong and you end up owing ten trillion quid in tax and in prison forever, it’s your fault not mine, OK?
That said, many British writers have problems because all the main indie-publishing companies are US-based, or at least operate out of the US, and so require a tax number. The usual advice for this is to get an ITIN. The process for this is as follows:
Get a letter from Lulu, Smashwords, Amazon or whoever’s US office, on headed notepaper, signed physically, posted to your mailing address, if you can find the contact email address to do so. Photocopies or emailed letters won’t do.
Fill out a complicated tax form, that again has to be filled out by hand.
Get an official certified copy of government-issued ID, and attach that to the form and the letter.
Post this back to the US.
Wait six weeks for the US tax office to process the paperwork.
Wait for the information to be posted back to you.
If you’re me, this process also includes “lose the letter”, “lose the printout of the form”, “lose the replacement letter”, “get annoyed emails asking why you’re asking for so many copies of the letter”, and so on, and so for the last four years I’ve been either having companies withold 30% of my money for US taxes or just keep the money until I could get this sorted.
However, there is a much, much, much simpler way to do this, and that is to apply for an EIN — an *employer* identification number — as a sole proprietor.
This can be done by filling out a single form, but the best and quickest way is probably to do it by phone. To do this, follow these simple instructions:
You now have a tax identification number which can be used for form W8-BEN, which is the form that Lulu, Smashwords, and others need. Amazon KDP now has an automated tax information wizard that you can find in your account settings, which fills out their copy of this form for you, and again you can use this number for that.
Again, please note, I am NOT a financial advisor or anyone who should be giving anyone advice on anything at all — the fact that it’s taken four years for me to get this sorted should tell you that — but this method took only a single phone call, and should have sorted the problems. I hope it does the same for anyone else who tries it.