US Tax Withholding for Non-US Authors Publishing as Businesses

How to claim reduced or no US tax withholdings on your royalties

Non-US authors’ royalties from book sales in the US are subject to a 30% withholding tax unless the required paperwork to claim full or partial exemption is filed.

The amount of exemption you can claim depends on the tax treaty that your country has with the US.

Steps for businesses to claim reduced or no US tax withholdings:

  1. Obtain a US tax identification number, called an EIN (Employer Identification Number) .
  2. Complete form W8-BENE (using your EIN) and send it to your publisher (or each of your US distributors). The IRS provides instructions to help fill in the form.

How to get an EIN

  1. Download form SS-4 from the IRS website. Page 2 of the form has useful notes. The IRS also provides instructions to help fill in the form.
  2. Complete the form. You can fill the fields in online and then save and print the form.
  3. Call the IRS’s dedicated line for businesses that are located outside of the US: 1-267-941-1099. Have your completed form SS-4 beside you as they will ask you about your entries. The best time to call seems to be 6-7am EST.
  4. You will get an EIN over the phone. Relevant paperwork is mailed in the next 2-3 weeks.

Tips when calling the IRS

  1. Form SS-4, question 9a tick ‘Other’ and enter your correct corporate status in your country.
  2. Make it clear that you are the owner/director of the business.
  3. Have the date of incorporation of your company or the date you registered as self-employed handy. They often request this information.