Tuesday, January 3, 2012

All this hassle to claim back with-holding tax!

Well, this task so far has taken a frustrating three months to try and sort out.

As an Indie author, I upload my books to the various book sites in order to sell my work.
For the past three months, I've been trying to sort out my tax number with the IRS, so I can claim the 30% with-holding tax back on the money I've earned in 2011.

I had my W-7 form verified by my notaire and sent it off along with a copy of my passport to the US Embassy in Paris. Three months later, the day after Boxing Day, I received a letter from Austin Texas telling me to resubmit the form and to get another verified copy of my passport, plus now I have to attach an apostille as part of the Hague convention.

I made an appointment with my notaire again, only to be told that she can't sign or verify it, and that I have to travel 2 hours to get it authorised!

Are you kidding me?

Also in the letter from Austin they told me that unless my form reaches them by the 17th January 2012 yet another form would have to be submitted.

Then to crown it all, Amazon say in their terms and conditions that the W-8BEN form that we have to send after we've obtained our ITIN number had to be in by 31st December 2011, otherwise the tax that was with-held that year would not be paid out!

I've had to contend with this on top of the fact that as a non-US writer I have to cash my cheques from Amazon(as they don't pay by EFT) at my bank and each time they take 32 euros from me. But what really gets my back up is that US writers can have an EFT payment made to their bank account and DON'T get any tax stopped by the UK government.

Isn't that discrimination?

Come on Amazon and the IRS give an author a helping hand, will you?

All we want to do is write for goodness sake, and I thought France was supposed to be a bureaucratic nightmare, er not compared you lot it isn't.

Added 5th January 2012.

I've just had to battle horrendous wind and rain and travel 200kms to get my passport verified. Went to the Court of Appeal and they told us we had to go to the Mayor to get the copy of the passport confirmed. Then we had to go back to the Court to get the Apostille signed and stamped. The lady wanted to post it to me but I stood my ground and asked her to do it there and then, thankfully she agreed.

It cost me another 7 euros to post the letter to the States as it has to be there before 17th January. Let's hope this is the end of it now! ;-(


  1. You're right, Mel. It is a bureaucratic nightmare. Coupled with Amazon only paying foreign authors by cheque which incur more costs and problems! Sometimes I feel like tearing my hair out :)

  2. We need to rally the non-US authors together, Sibel and try to get Amazon to change their minds. ;-)

  3. I'm sorry for what you're going through, it sounds like a beaurocratic nightmare.
    I hope it gets sorted without you losing too much money, let alone all the time you're expected to spend on it.

  4. Oh Mel, what a major pain! Will your US embassy notarise it for you? That's what mine did here in Australia. I sent the original identification documents (I don't have a passport) to the embassy and waited a week for them to return the originals plus the notarised copies. I then sent those off with the W7 form to the IRS.

  5. I did that CJ and they passed the letter on to Austin Texas minus the notarised copy.

    Now I have to spend out 20 euros on petrol and waste a morning of writing time to try and get it sorted again! ;-(

  6. I'm not earning that much yet to justify the hassle to get the TAX exemption. The US government came with the ridiculous law/regulation that companies need to withhold tax from foreign entities. They force a private company to do their job as tax collectors. It's wrong.

    Amazon is not free from fault; they do not make it easy on Non-US writers with their insistence to pay by check, while it is easy to do otherwise.

    My opinion is to support Amazon’s competitors who are more lenient to Non-US customers, for example like Smashwords. They pay to your paypal account, and they don't charge an extra fee to sales from outside the USA like Amazon does.

    International writers should unite and take action to promote some other company, or convince Amazon to change how they operate concerning International writers and sales.

  7. Thanks for that comment A Rosaria, thankfully I am on smashwords etc. You're right they do pay by paypal which is much simpler, they still withhold the tax though! ;-)

  8. The witholding tax bit is a USA thing. The IRS wants our money, and them being so in debt, they really want to keep it.

    Maybe the UK has an alternative to Amazon. Though I haven't found one yet.

  9. Not that I know of! W H Smiths are plugging the KOBO a lot! ;-)

  10. Oh no. I've yet to do mine and I've just moved to France. I gather that the local Mairie will act as Notaires. May be worth a try.

    Martin Lake

  11. I went for a look at W H Smiths and lo and behold http://www.whsmith.co.uk/CatalogAndSearch/eBooksProductDetails.aspx?productID=KB00104999598
    I didn't even know KOBO's reach went so far. I should keep a better watch on KOBO and maybe make the effort to publish directly on them, instead of through smashwords.

  12. Martin, the apostille has to be signed and stamped by a court of appeal, my notaire cannot do it. That's why I have to travel tomorrow! ;-)

  13. I got my ITIN, sending in my passport by special royal mail delivery. The IRS sent the passport back the same way.. and Royal Mail have lost it!
    At least I got a call from a helpful IRS lady - she thinks someone might be stealing them after they've been despatched..Nice post, Mel!

  14. I'm by law not allowed to give my passport to anyone in holding. It's state property. (despite having paid for it) I'll probably have to go to the US embassy to get things sorted out.

    Criminals like to get in possession of passports, ten years ago I heard them paying around 4000 euro for one. Who knows for how much they sell them to the poor folks needing a fake passport.

  15. That's awful Tania, I hope Royal Mail are going to fork out for a new passport?

    A. Rosario, the trouble is it's pretty easy to spot a passport in an envelope isn't it.

    I've just added to my original post.