What is IRS Form W-8BEN?

Don’t worry—it's not as complicated as it sounds.

Pen sitting on top of IRS Form W-8BEN

Form W-8BEN is the Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting. Sounds complicated, right? In essence, it’s a form that foreign individuals (or in this case, non-US citizens) who receive certain types of income in the United States must submit to verify their country of residence for tax purposes. The form, sometimes referred to as a "certificate of foreign status," establishes that the individual is both a foreign person and the owner of the business in question.

When receiving income in the United States, foreign individuals are ordinarily subject to a tax rate of 30% on specific types of income, including:

  • Interest
  • Dividends
  • Rents
  • Royalties
  • Premiums
  • Annuities
  • Compensation for services rendered

Submitting a Form W-8BEN can help you claim a reduction or an exemption from the US tax withholding if you reside in a country with which the United States has an income tax treaty and the income you received is subject to that treaty. For a full list of foreign governments who have a tax treaty with the United States, check the International Revenue Service’s website.

Foreign individuals must provide Form W-8BEN to the withholding agent or payer if they are the beneficial owner of the income subject to the tax withholding. They also must submit the form regardless of whether they are claiming a reduced withholding. Individuals must submit the form to the payer or withholding agent prior to receiving income or credits from them. Failure to submit a Form W-8BEN could result in paying either the full 30% rate or the backup withholding rate under section 3406.

Disclaimer: This blog and all information in it is provided for general informational purposes only. It does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or tax advice. You should consult with a qualified legal or tax professional for advice regarding any legal or tax matter and prior to acting (or refraining from acting) on the basis of any information provided on this website.

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