An easier alternative to getting an ITIN for people self-publishing print or e-books
Getting an ITIN
What is an ITIN and why would you want to get one? An ITIN is an international tax identification number assigned by the IRS to an individual. It’s essentially a way to help make sure that everyone is paying taxes somewhere for money that is made by selling books in the US. For people who live in countries that have tax treaties with the US (like Canada) as long as you have this number it means the company writing your royalty cheques doesn’t need to withhold any money to cover paying taxes to the US government on your behalf.
Some publishers based in the US require that authors who aren’t based in the US register for an ITIN in order for them to pay you your royalties. In the case of self-publishers, many of the companies (Smashwords, CreateSpace, iTunes Connect etc.) require you to submit an ITIN in order to get paid as well. In some cases, like iTunes Connect which is how you submit books to the iBookstore, you can’t even get fully signed up for your publisher account without it. If you are working with an established publisher and this is what they require of you, then you may find this article by Christy Pinheiro on how to get an ITIN helpful. However, if you’re self-publishing and don’t want to wait the months that it might take to get your ITIN, we’ve got a solution for you.
How to get an EIN
An EIN is an employer identification number. You may have noticed that when signing up for your publisher account with some of the above mentioned companies, the line says “enter your ITIN/EIN for tax identification purposes” or some variation on that theme. Turns out, an EIN is much quicker and easier to get! And as a self-publishing author, you are the publisher and owner of your own business.
The online method is supposedly fastest, but since I wasn’t 100% sure about the process or how it worked (or if I could even get one) I called the phone number provided. It’s toll-free for people in the US, but you have to call a long-distance number from any other country. However, don’t worry – the call from start to finish was only 10 minutes (so $1.00 in long distance fees) and the service itself is free. By the time I hung up the phone from that call, I had my EIN written on a paper in front of me and the official paperwork on the way. Instead of possibly months of waiting for an ITIN, I was ready to go immediately.
Start off your call by explaining that you’re a Canadian author, needing an EIN to sell books through iTunes Connect or CreateSpace. Your agent knows what they are doing and can help you. Don’t be afraid to ask if you’re not sure what something means!
Here are some tips regarding the questions that I wasn’t sure about, but the agent was kind enough to help me with.
- your business name is your name, and they can fill in a DBA name if you’re not incorporated or whatever but are using a business name.
- you’re applying as a foreign entity
- you don’t have any US employees
- you’re applying to be in compliance with the IRS regulations (why are you applying?)
- you’ll need to know the date when you started selling things (or they use current date if you haven’t started yet)
- e-book publishing is your principal activity
For most places you can enter that number right away and it only becomes relevant when royalties are actual paid out. For the iTunes Connect account, you will most likely need to wait 1-2 weeks after you get your EIN number assigned before it’s officially entered into the IRS database and apple can process your application properly. But 1-2 weeks is infinitely better than a few months!
Good luck – and let me know how you find the process!