Filling in W-8BEN as a UK Ltd company for software development services to a U.S. corporation

May 5, 2011

So, if you want to get paid by a U.S. company and you don’t want the U.S. government withholding 30% of it – then you need to fill out two forms:

  • W-8BEN (to declare to the U.S. why you shouldn’t be taxed at 30%)
  • SS-4 (to get an Employer Identification Number [EIN] which is used in your W-8BEN)
The EIN number is relatively easy to obtain. Simply fill out the SS-4 form here http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fss4.pdf  (detailed instructions are here http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/iss4.pdf).

You can then call the IRS on a special number for international applicants on 001 267 941 1099 and a little old lady will guide you through the form.  She will give you your EIN number there and then although the paperwork will take three weeks to arrive in the post.

For the W-8BEN form (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw8ben.pdf), here is a cheat sheet:

Part I

1. <Your Company Name>
2. United Kingdom
3. Tick “Corporation”
4 <Your Company Address>
5. Postal Address (if different from above)
6. Your EIN number (as obtained from the little old lady) and tick the “EIN” box
7. Optional (I ignored this)
8. Ignore

Part II

9a – Tick and enter “United Kingdom” in the space provided
9b – Tick
9c – Tick
Ignore the rest.

Part III

Ignore

Part IV

Sign, date (in U.S. format MM-DD-YYYY) and enter “Director” as capacity in which acting
That’s it. Write me a nice message if I saved you a shed load of time 🙂
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45 Responses to “Filling in W-8BEN as a UK Ltd company for software development services to a U.S. corporation”

  1. Nick Barnes Says:

    How did you fill out the SS-4? In particular, “form number to be filed” in section 9a?


    • I don’t think the *form number to be applied* is needed in this case. Either that or the lady on the phone answered it for me. Just ring the number and explain your situation – they’ll fill it out for you without going through the form step by step.

      • Stuart Says:

        Thanks for the great article!

        My lady on the phone was not so helpful with the SS-4. Guessing it was a different woman.

        I’m checked “Compliance with IRS withholding regulations” for box 10 but I’m not sure if that was correct. She wouldn’t help (it sounded like she had no idea what tax even is)

  2. FEAR Says:

    Shedloads? Make that 100 shedloads. All done, thank you very much.

  3. RobH Says:

    This is really helpful, thank you.

  4. Tom Says:

    Damian, thank you!

  5. aravinda Says:

    Damian,

    You are a Star mate!
    Thanks a lot.

    Aravinda

  6. Deverous Says:

    Thank you for the nice tutorial. It was indeed an old lady on the other end, telling me she is “old school” and never shops online. Does not know what “Ai ma zonii” is (Amazon) and if I can spell that ouf for her. (with a laughter…)

  7. Adam Says:

    Thanks so much. You are a complete star!

  8. Quentin Pain Says:

    Thanks so much this Damian.

  9. Alex Kearns Says:

    Thanks! That saved me a bunch of time. Appreciate it!

  10. Ronan Royer Says:

    Perfect. Thanks for this post.
    All information is relevant and correct.
    (and the lovely old lady is now a deep-voiced chap… 🙂


  11. Great stuff, thanks. No little old lady for me either!

  12. Mark Says:

    Took your adive – had to wait a while on the phone but then went through nice n easy. Thanks a lot.
    Only thing is I have now been hit with a letter from the IRS asking for us to fill in a tax return. Anyone else get this and did you do it?

  13. lsim001 Says:

    This is a legend blog post! I actually wasted an hour trying to understand what on earth the instructions were going on about before giving up and googling.

  14. David Says:

    Damian, do you really need to fill in a SS-4 if you have no presence in the States. The SS-4 looks as though its designed for complains who have employees in America.

    We have completed a W-8BEN as per your instructions and now have a request from our client to complete a W-9 or UK equivalent.

  15. Paul Says:

    Thanks saved me loads of time, i’m going to tweet this post…

  16. Ruth Annette Says:

    What a lifesaver you are… I just called, got that lovely lady who guided me through everything, filled int he form for me and I got my EIN number within 20 mins of starting the phone call…. I can now fill in my w-8BEN where I need the EIN… Thank you Millions! Ruth Annette @ Precious~Dreams

  17. Peter Says:

    Thanks – saved me xx hrs 🙂

  18. Jim Kerin Says:

    hi 5 – Thanks a lot

  19. Craig Smith Says:

    Very useful, thank you. Much more helpful than the largely unintelligible ‘General Instructions’ that accompany the W-8BEN form. As they say, ‘two nations divided by a common language’.

  20. Mungo Says:

    Form W8-BEN is for U.S.-source income only — that is, income derived from work performed within the U.S. If you are working from outside the U.S., you should provide the client with a letter to that effect, and you (as a foreign person) have NO filing requirement with IRS. There is much confusion on this point even among U.S. companies — largely because “U.S. source” here seems to mean one thing when it really means another. Also, IRS makes companies “withholding agents” and they are so scared that they err on the side of caution and ask for W8-BEN’s even when they are unnecessary.

  21. Jim Morrison Says:

    Awesome, thanks for the article!

    You don’t need an EIN if you’re a UK company doing work in the UK.. or at least that’s what the little old lady (who sounded suspiciously manly) just told me.

  22. Justyn Says:

    Thanks very much… so much simpler than reading the frankly incomprehensible instructions for filling out this form supplied by the IRS!

  23. tracy Says:

    Hi, your advive was very helpful. Im now struggling with a UK address to post the form to. Any advice???

  24. misterede Says:

    Awesome, I think that just saved me half a day. The little old lady sounded more like a robot than an old lady but equally as helpful!

  25. Thanh Says:

    Hi Damian, your instruction is clear, to the point and very helpful. Thank you.

    Thanh

  26. Martin Marsi Says:

    Hi,
    thanks for the advice. I hope it is right. At least I got it done.

  27. Simon Says:

    Awesomely helpful, thanks for taking the time so I didn’t give up too much of mine!

  28. Polly Brown Says:

    Hi Damian
    I really wanted to leave you a lovely message – but it’s not going well. The old lady was a dragon, told me she wasn’t trained to help decide on the answers on the SS-4 – and cut me off after 1hr and 20mins even though I’d been sweetness and light.

    Please may I ask what everyone answered for:
    8a and 8b – Is a UK private limited company an LLC for the purposes of this? If so what is a ‘member’?
    9a – If we answer ‘;Corporation’ we don’t have a form number to be filed (the last thing we want to do is file any kind of tax form in the US).
    Thank you!
    Pols

  29. Gabriel Says:

    Thanks! Great info, used it to get EIN on phone, ss4-form is not necessary. Just make a call and say that you need want to get an EIN in order to to comply with ‘IRS Withholding Regulations. Be patient, it’ll took a time. I was on hold listening to the music for about 35minutes =) and after that about 25min talking.

  30. Brian Jenner Says:

    Thank you. This is great advice. Much better than the advice offered by Eventbrite.

  31. dumb blonde Says:

    thank you thank you thank you
    all those boxes were making very little sense to me


  32. Thanks Damian for this helpful guide. Rather than call the little old lady I sent my SS4 by fax and they sent me my EIN in the post. Proper old-school!
    Now I just have to fill in my customer’s “vendorizing coversheet” and form SF3881. It’s another world, it really is.

  33. C I Says:

    Thank you! I was at my wits end with these forms and this post made it all so much clearer. You are a life-saver!

  34. Sam Says:

    Awesome! It took about a 40 minutes wait on the phone, but I got the EIN number right on the phone. Thanks!


  35. thank you thank you ! Save me loads of time on a form that requires the smallest handwriting ever!

  36. John Licorish Says:

    Thanks for your help…I did get a little old lady and she was very helpful…great advice…you rock 🙂


  37. Thanks, Damian – super helpful.
    There has recently been a change (Feb 2014) which means that it’s form W-8BEN-E (rather than W-8BEN) which you need as a UK Limited company. The W-8BEN form is now only for individuals. As of 21 March 2014, the new W-8BEN-E for has not been published, but is expected to arrive on the IRS website “soon”.

  38. Snabbers Says:

    Worked exactly as you described it, thanks so much! And also applies to companies not in software development!

  39. do Says:

    you don’t need to do a w-8ben-e until dec 31, 2014. you can use the 2006 version of the w8-ben until then. it’s much shorter and easier.

  40. Paripinto Says:

    If a company in India is providing project management service in US to a US based company, does the indian company need to fill out W-8BEN? The person (green Card holder) providing project management service is based in US. Please let me know


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