ITINs for non-US Authors
In the past, many non-US authors have applied for a US ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) ONLY so they can claim tax exemption from US publishers and distributors like Amazon, so they don’t deduct US tax from their royalties at source.
However, an ITIN is also used by US citizens to report their annual taxes, and may expire if it’s not used for that purpose. In a 2014 change to the rules, the IRS agreed to allow ITINs to stay in force but ONLY if they were being used to file tax returns. Other, dormant ITINs would gradually be expired.
Since 2016, the IRS has started this expiry process, calling in ITINs in a phased manner. Anyone still needing one for tax reporting purposes has to re-apply.
There are some worrying 2018 headlines out there like “2 million ITINs to expire this year” and also ITINs with the middle numbers of “73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 81 or 82” are being called in (for example 9NN-73-NNNN).
What should you do?
For those authors needing it ONLY for their tax exemption, it appears you do not need to re-apply. These sections appear in the IRS FAQs on this issue:
Q7: Do I need to renew my ITIN if I won’t be filing a tax return or claim for refund?
A7: No, however, in the future if you file a U.S. tax return or claim for refund, the ITIN (including for a dependent) will need to be renewed at that time.
Q8: I only use my ITIN on information returns, like Forms 1099. If my ITIN is expiring, do I need to renew it?
A8: No, if your ITIN is only used on information returns and you will not be filing a tax return or claim for refund you do not need to renew your ITIN.
Note re Amazon
Remember that although Amazon requires an annual tax statement from a publisher / self-publisher, if you’re an individual they’ll accept your UK National Insurance number instead of an ITIN, and have done so for many years.
If you’re a limited company, an EIN is needed instead – but that’s much easier to apply for than the arduous and unreliable process of obtaining an ITIN!