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India authors on Amazon KDP or Createspace! How to get EIN or ITIN for IRS tax compliance in eight minutes?

Did Amazon tell you that they will withhold tax as you haven’t provided an ITIN or EIN number? Read on to find out how I got mine in 8 minutes flat!

Disclaimer: This blog post is NOT legal advice. It only tells you what I did to get my EIN account. Amazon KDP, Createspace and Smashwords already have detailed information about tax processes for non-US Self Publisher on their website. Its highly recommended to read that as well. I am not responsible for your actions based on this blog post.

When I first uploaded my Kindle book on Amazon KDP a few months back, Amazon notified me that they will withhold 30% of my earnings for tax compliance purposes. I ignored the message as it was early days. I wasn’t sure if even one book would sell, or if I would even reach the Amazon KDP payment threshold. Moreover they wanted some doc called W8-BEN along with the ITIN/EIN number. I tried to follow their process and I found it hopelessly complex and ditched the idea to a future date.

Well my procrastination came back to haunt me. Amazon recently warned me that my account would be suspended if I didn’t fill in my tax details. But there was a silver lining. They had recently created an automated Tax Interview process on their site. And the W8-BEN would be submitted automatically to the IRS online. No need to fax a document and wait weeks to confirm.

I only needed the Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) or an Employee Identification Number (EIN) for that.

ITIN seemed the logical choice as I was a self-published author and obviously an individual. EIN seemed to be for complex overseas business. Well, a bit of research told me that I could simply call a number and get an EIN.

Wow! I told myself. Let me try that. So I threw caution to the winds and called the IRS.

I called them at 3pm EST and the IVR told me that there was a wait time of 15 min. Bummer. I called again 10 minutes later and again heard that I have to wait 15 min. Double Bummer.

I found that the IRS office timings are 7am to 10pm. I decided to be the first to call them the next day. Here’s what happened the next day in an eight minute time span.

1. I called the IRS at +1 267 941 1099 at 6:55am EST the next day. There was no wait time and I straight away got in touch with a nice lady. I told her that I am an author and Amazon had instructed me to get an EIN for tax purposes.

2. She asked me to spell out my name, address and phone number and country.

3. She asked me if I was the CEO, COO, Director, etc of the company. I specified that I am a sole proprietor as an author of ebooks.

4. She asked me why I needed an EIN? I repeated that Amazon wanted me to get an EIN. She disregarded what I said, and started reading from a list of reasons. You have to answer ‘its for compliance with tax withholding’. It appears that they want us to say so in their particular format, and will not entertain any other response.

5. When was my business started? Give the date when you published your first book on Amazon/Createspace/Smashwords etc.

6. The next question was whether I will hire any US employees in the next 12 months. You are supposed to say No here.

7. It is my understanding that all this time she was filling in the Form SS-4 on her end.

8. She told me to wait and after about a minute, she gave me my EIN number. She made me repeat it so that she could make sure that I got it right. Yippee! I hung up thanking her, and started jumping around the room with joy. Immediately I copied it to my email and sent the email to myself.

Well, that’s my adventure of obtaining an EIN number in eight minutes flat.

The next step was updating my EIN number in my Amazon KDP account. I went through the Tax Interview on the site. Selected the option to digitally sign my name. Updated the EIN number when asked. Checked the box which said that I received the EIN within the past 60 days. After I submitted, I got a message that the EIN number was being verified by the IRS. Finally they accepted and my tax information on KDP was complete.

KDP Tax Information Withholding

Note that for India, the tax withholding rate is 15%. It is also my understanding that whatever amount Amazon withheld cannot be returned by them. We will have to contact the IRS directly to get the Tax Returns.

Hope this was helpful.

Comments? Questions?

Comments

  • Vikram
    December 19, 2013

    Hi, just found your article after some googling.

    I’ve decided that for now, I will complete the interview without a tax identification number, and update it later when I get one. Is this possible? Can I update the tax information *after* the interview is completed and the form W8-BEN is submitted?

  • Jaydeep
    December 26, 2013

    I want to start writing and then self publish my first book. I looked up online and found Createspace as a platform. Further research gave me the names of a couple of Indian players too. I can go ahead with one of them or if I choose to go ahead with Createspace, there are the obvious complications as you are aware, but it promises wider reach as well.

    What would you suggest? Is it safe to go with Createspace and more importantly, is it financially viable?

  • Kishore
    January 24, 2014

    Hi Rahul,

    Thanks for your useful post. Just a quick question – Does Amazon give you some Tax Withholding certificate? How do you claim your refunds in the US/pay taxes in India?

    Regards,
    Kishore

  • rahul
    January 24, 2014

    @Vikram: It would be ideal if you simply call the IRS and get the EIN number. Doesn’t take more than a few minutes.

  • rahul
    January 24, 2014

    Createspace is primarily for US, UK & other regions where Amazon has a good presence. I have my book on Createspace, but when I check it on Flipkart it costs a bomb and shows as Imported Edition. Would recommend that you have different Editions for different regions. e.g. I am looking out for a Print on Demand Publisher (POD) for India.
    Createspace is financially viable. You dont pay anything upfront, and they are paid a commision only if you sell a book

  • rahul
    January 24, 2014

    @Kishore: Amazon doesn’t give a Tax certificate. If funds were withheld at 30% and now its at 15%, you will have to contact the IRS to get the balance back. I didn’t bother with the few months royalties as the amount was very small.
    To pay taxes in India, I suggest that you contact a CA and have them help you out.

  • Pradeep
    February 1, 2014

    Hi Rahul,

    This is a great piece of information. Thanks a lot.
    Can we use the same EIN for both smashwords and Amazon KDP?
    Also can you suggest any good self publishing website in India for selling on flipkart and other Indian websites.

    Thanks and regards,
    Pradeep

  • Mandeep
    May 27, 2015

    Hi
    Just to clarify,
    If i obtain an EIN, I will not need to pay the withholding tax rate of 15%?

  • December 3, 2015

    Hey Rahul,

    Few weeks back I applied for the EIN and got my EIN.

    I have a question here, Have you received the EIN document from the IRS? How much time does it take to receive it?

    Is there a way to track the EIN document?

    Awaiting for your answer.
    Cheers
    Suresh

  • May 12, 2017

    Hello Rahul,

    My question is along the same lines as Kishore.

    I did give my Indian PAN, so I didn’t have to get a US EIN. They have deducted 15% withholding tax, and now I’m trying to figure out how to get a certificate/refund for it, so as to avoid dual taxation.

    You mention at the end of your post that we need to contact the IRS for it, right? So is there an email ID for them, or do we have to use the phone number mentioned in your post? (The one where you got your EIN from.)

    Thanks.

  • rahul
    June 30, 2017

    Amazon snail mails me a Tax certificate every year which shows the Tax deducted. You can either contact KDP support or the IRS on the given number.

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