F-ein-tastic!: 2013 365 Challenge #247

Mind-Numbing Paperwork

Mind-Numbing Paperwork

Hurrah! I got my EIN number today.

After a year of telling myself “I will call tomorrow” and never quite managing it, my “fax them instead” plan worked a charm. Just as they said it would, it only took four business days for my EIN to arrive by fax to my inbox.

Cue BIG GRINS!

For anyone else like me, who hates having to phone anyone, or who doesn’t want to spend a fortune on hold to an international phone number, here is a rough idea of what I did to get my number.

1. Read Catherine, Caffeinated’s blog post on applying for an EIN (especially read the bit at the top *Read this first* and the comments). Even if you’re going to fax rather than phone, this will still make sure you know all the answers to the questions needed to complete the SS-4 Form.

2. Download the SS-4 form (or here) AND the notes. You need to read the notes, although don’t be daunted. On page three of the SS-4 there is a chart titled “Do I need an EIN?”

Point 8 on this chart, where it says IF the applicant … Is a foreign person needing an EIN to comply with IRS withholding regulations AND Needs an EIN to complete a Form W-8 (…) explains which parts of the form need to be completed. These are: Lines 1-5b, 7a-b (SSN or ITIN optional), 8a, 8b-c (if applicable), 9a, 9b (if applicable), 10, and 18. 

3. Use the notes on Catherine, Caffeinated’s post, together with the Instructions Form, to help you understand what information is required for each of these sections. Heed the advice to fill everything out in full (no abbreviations). I completed my form in Adobe Photoshop, because I have it, and because there was no way I could fit my address legibly in the teeny tiny box by hand. It probably isn’t necessary but it certainly helps if you can type the form.

4. Ensure you have included a fax number for yourself in the bottom right-hand corner, and fax to this number:

International Revenue Service Center
Attn: EIN International Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999
Fax-TIN: (1) 859-669-5987
 

4a. If (like me) you don’t have a fax machine, there are plenty of online companies who can convert a scanned document into a fax and send it for you. I used efax, signing up for their free 30 day trial (provided I remember to cancel it tomorrow!) They allowed me to choose my own local fax number and emailed me the response from the IRS. You do have to give your credit card details so make sure you cancel it within the 30 days.

5. Once you get your magic EIN number back, you need to complete the W-8BEN Forms for Amazon and Smashwords (if you have your EIN you can ignore most of the advice on the Smashwords page about the W7 form).

Again, Catherine Caffeinated’s blog has details on how to do this (although the postal address for Smashwords is out of date, so it’s worth double checking the information. The latest one is below.)

Amazon now have an automated system – the tax interview – whereby you complete your W-8BEN Form online. It’s worth doing this first, so you can copy their information to complete the Smashwords form (which has to be posted to this address:).

Postal mail us a printed, signed copy of your W8BEN form to:

Smashwords, Inc.
Attn:  Tax Compliance Dept.
PO Box 11817
Bainbridge Island, WA   USA  98110

NOTE: You have to include your Smashwords screen name (ie for me it’s writermummy) and account email address on the form before you post it to them.

6. Sell some books, happy in the knowledge that (in a month or two) you will no longer lose 30% of your income to the IRS.

Caveat: This is my experience of the process. I didn’t take many notes and I found it all quite straightforward, particularly after reading ALL of the Catherine Caffeinated post, including comments. If you have anything extra to add, or your experience was different in any way, please let me know in the comments below.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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Claire felt a tap on her arm. Prising her eyes open, she stared blearily to her left. Josh peered at her with a sheepish grin on his face.

“Sorry, did I wake you?”

“No.” Claire yawned. She glanced to her right, but the seat was empty. Feeling slightly betrayed that Bethan had left her to her fate, Claire turned back to Josh.

“Yes, it’s just us.” His smile was too knowing, and Claire flushed at being caught. She already suspected that Josh had seen through her blatant attempts to avoid being alone with him, both at dinner the night before, and during the wait for the ferry that morning.

“Would you like to take a walk? We’re just entering the sound, and the scenery is breathtaking.”

Even though the ferry barely felt like it was moving – in strong contrast to her experience two days before – Claire didn’t feel like going on deck. But something about Josh’s expression told her he would pester her until she gave in, so she nodded and hoped it would be too noisy outside for conversation.

Josh led her through a heavy door, holding it open for her with a flourish. She smiled at his antics but it didn’t alleviate the lead weight tugging at her chest. As much as she was enjoying spending time with Josh, she found his behaviour unnerving: he watched her constantly, even when he was talking to someone else. It was more like being stalked by Neal than having her friend back.

I miss the old Josh.

With another yawn, Claire inhaled the fresh morning air and agreed that it was indeed beautiful. The grass-coated cliffs rose either side of them, forming a narrow tunnel for the ferry to chug through. The scenery had an other-world feel to it: too large, too green, too perfect. She felt like a mouse drifting along the riverbank on a leaf.

Josh leant on the railings, his face into the wind. She went to stand beside him and, for a moment, they contemplated the view in companionable silence.

“Claire–”

She winced, then changed it to, “Hmmm?”

“I never got a chance to tell you yesterday about why I came. The truth is, I’m thinking of leaving Fiona.”

Claire gasped. She couldn’t help it. Whatever she had imagined he might say; that hadn’t been it.

Stupid girl. It should have been obvious: the lingering glances, his coming all this way to see you.

She tried to analyse her reaction to his announcement. Wasn’t that what she wanted? Josh, free from Fiona and hers for the taking? Except somehow she didn’t want it anymore. The Josh she loved was a faithful, loving man, not someone who would walk out on his wife and children.

“Why?”

Josh released a sigh. “It’s too damn hard, that’s why. All she has time for these days is the kids. They come first in everything. We barely talk anymore, never mind, well …”

“But Lily’s only a baby; surely it will get easier when she’s a bit older.”

“Fiona said that after Lucas and Sophie and then Lily came along. She’ll probably want another one, as soon as Lily doesn’t need her 24-7. It feels like her way of avoiding being with me: having more and more babies.”

“I thought you loved the children.”

Josh ran his hands through his hair. “I do. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great kids. And Fiona. But a man has needs, you know? Oh not just the obvious ones.”

He turned to face her, and the bitterness in his expression made her catch her breath.

“Just once I’d like her to ask about my day, instead of handing me the baby so she can grab a shower or go to bed. I feel like we’re co-workers on a rolling twelve-hour shift pattern. I don’t remember the last time we had an uninterrupted conversation.”

Claire thought back to her time caring for Sky. She’d felt like that with only one child to look after, she couldn’t imagine what it must be like with three. And, even though her first reaction was to call Josh a selfish bastard for not being more supportive of Fiona, she had to admit he probably had a point. When they’d all been together in the hostel, Fiona’s attention had been consumed by the children.

“Shouldn’t you be talking to Fiona about this, not me?”

Josh hung his head and rubbed his hand around the back of his neck. It was the gesture of a beaten man. “I’ve tried. She gets all emotional: either accusing me of being selfish or telling me to clear off and find someone else to see to my needs because she’s too busy.”

Claire’s ears buzzed as she tried to think. She didn’t want to be having this conversation. Was she meant to be the someone else? Josh’s pain was her pain, but part of her could see how childish he was being. Parenthood was hard: you took the good with the bad.

If I were Fiona, I’d probably tell him to sod off, too.

Not knowing what to say, Claire absentmindedly rubbed his shoulder in support. As if the physical contact was all the permission he needed, Josh turned to her and seized her face with his hands. He kissed her, hard, his stubble grazing her face. Not like the soft brush of the lips of their first embrace.

She didn’t respond but, unlike the last time, Josh didn’t pull away. After several painful moments, Claire pushed at his chest and he broke free, panting.

She looked up at him, eyes wide. His expression was wild and it scared her. Then he seemed to control his features and smiled the lopsided grin that tightened round her heart like a fist.

“Sorry. Can’t blame a man for trying.”

He turned back to face the sea, as if nothing had happened. Claire stood motionless, except for the trembling in her limbs, her mind a jumble of thoughts and feelings.

Ah, crap.

***

Learning to be Brave: 2013 365 Challenge #220

Picking strawberries

Picking strawberries

One of the benefits of parenting is learning to be brave. Yesterday I touched a moth (ugh!) as I had to remove it from a trampoline and flick it into the grass. I hate moths. Ever since I left the light on and window open in my bedroom as a child, and went up at bedtime to find the ceiling plastered with giant moths (I grew up in the country) I have hated them. But, being brave for my children, I must deal with my fears.

This is especially appropriate after reading a post on Rinelle’s blog yesterday, about applying for an EIN number as an indie author.

This is probably only of interest to self-published writers, but there is a great article on Catherine, Caffeinated’s blog about how to get this holy-grail number (needed to stop Amazon.com withholding 30% of profits in tax).

Where are those juicy strawberries?

Where are those juicy strawberries?

I haven’t made any money from my books yet. Certainly not enough to go through the pain of calling the US to get an EIN number. I’ve had Catherine’s helpful article flagged in my inbox FOR A YEAR. Making that call has been on my to-do list for 12 months!

I hate phoning people that much.

In the UK, the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – in charge of tax etc in this country) have a phrase that says, “Tax doesn’t need to be taxing.” But it is. I always fill out my tax return at the 11th hour, even though, these days, there are no earnings and no tax to pay. The idea of calling the IRS and trying to get something out of them fills me with quiet horror.

After reading Rinelle’s post I decided to gird my loins, pluck up my courage, and make the call. I motivated myself by how great it would feel when I’d done it. How I could write a comment on Rinelle’s post thanking her for her encouragement. I could write a thank you comment on Catherine, Caffeinated’s post too. I could move forward and take this irritating thing off my perpetual to-do list.

Found one!

Found one!

I wrote out all the information I would need. I set up Skype on my iPad and found my headphones, ready to make the call (apparently you can be on hold for ages!). I loaded up the world clock, to see what time it was in Philadelphia, where I would be calling.

6am.

Bugger. I have to get the kids from preschool in twenty minutes. So, I won’t be making that phone call today, even though the adrenalin is still pumping and the knots in my stomach are still clenched tight. But I was nearly brave. That counts for something, right?

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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As the bus stopped at yet another hostel to pick up passengers, Claire looked at the pack of papers the driver had shoved into her hand when she boarded. They included a check-in form for the hostel that evening, extra activities to add on, travel dates and so on. Claire groaned.

I have no idea. I just want to go back to sleep. It seemed that travelling by tour bus was a different beast to meandering around in her clapped-out Skoda.

I’m not used to people telling me what to do. Except Carl and Julia, of course, and they were easily ignored.

Claire tried to decide how many nights she wanted to stay at the first stop, Paihia. It looked like a pretty town, but she had a feeling now was not the time for long periods of idleness and solitude.

Best keep moving.

Forms completed, Claire rested her head against the juddering glass of the window and tried to find sleep.

*

She awoke to the hiss of brakes and the lurch of the coach coming to a halt. She looked around, trying to decide if they were finally there. They’d stopped so many times, to pick people up, or to allow for toilet breaks or breakfast, she didn’t want to get her hopes up. From the shuffling and clamour, she decided they had actually arrived.

Stifling a yawn, Claire gathered her things and joined the slow procession off the bus. She looked at the place she would call home for the night. It was a low-level building surrounded by palm trees. Over to her right she could see tree-covered hills, framed against a blue sky dotted with clouds. After the air-conditioned bus the air felt warm and smelt of the sea.

It felt bizarre, checking in with two-dozen other travellers. Her journey in the UK had been mostly solo and, though occasionally she might meet someone else at the reception desk, her check in had been swift and painless. Waiting in line for her turn, Claire listened to the bubbling conversation around her – happy teenagers planning their afternoon – and felt like a rock in a river, standing proud and alone above the noise.

From the chatter she discovered that the hostel had a rocking bar full of locals, a pool and a hot tub. Two girls behind her were giggling, assessing their chances of pulling fit Kiwi blokes during the evening barbeque, which came as part of their accommodation. Claire decided to make sure she had her book with her.

At last she was at the front, and discovered she was sleeping in an eight-bed dorm.

Thank god I decided just to stay the one night.

Claire took her key and wandered through the hostel, past a group of lads playing cards, and a bank of red sofas full of people ignoring the TV. Although the facilities were no different to the hostels she’d staying in at home, everything felt alien. Not unfriendly, exactly. But something made her skin prickle.

As she retrieved the things she would need for the afternoon, before stuffing her rucksack onto her bunk, Claire tried to put her finger on what felt wrong.

They’re all too young. That’s what it is. It feels like Fresher’s Week at uni, surrounded by people just released from the confines of home, looking for their next drink, shag or adventure.

The hostels back home had been mostly full of families, school groups, or couples. She’d met as many retired people travelling, alone or in pairs, as she had under-twenties.

I guess the UK isn’t really where people go for their gap year of fun before becoming proper grown-ups.

Beginning to understand where Mitch’s uncouth nickname for the green bus had come from, and conscious of a growing sense of homesickness, it was with a heavy heart that Claire left the hostel to go in search of lunch.

***