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I'm an Australian citizen, living in Australia.

I've started doing some writing work for a company in NY on a project-by-project basis. The C.O.O asked if I could send him a W2 form. Having done a little bit of background reading, I'm not sure whether the W2 is suitable. Given that I don't have a US social security number, nor do I file a US tax return. Anyone have some wisdom they can drop in here? Do I need a 1099 form? Do I need any IRS form at all? Just pay my Australian tax and just carry on living my life as per usual?

Inhabiting a strange no man's land of tax here, wading through murky waters.

  • Are you sure they asked for W2? Maybe it was W8? – littleadv Mar 11 '14 at 5:58
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    They did ask for the W2, but I'm not sure the head of creative services was informed that I'm not a US citizen so it may have been a faux pas. – David Halliday Mar 11 '14 at 6:40
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    W2 is something employers give to employees, not ask for. He might have just miscommunicated what his accountant told him to ask for. He wants a W8 from you. – littleadv Mar 11 '14 at 6:42
  • If you aren't US Citizen and don't live in US, you don't need to pay US taxes even you get payment from US. – Alexan Mar 14 '14 at 3:13
  • Did you get a definitive answer on this, I'm in exactly the same position. Paul – user47642 Aug 21 '16 at 0:02
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You probably do need an IRS form. Reason being that a US payer must withhold 30% of the payment to you as income tax and remit it to the IRS. You're then expected to file a refund claim with the IRS to get it back, unless your own country will let you deduct it from your local tax liability (and even that only if your local tax liability on that money is at least 30%). You don't have to, of course, but then you're losing your money to the benefit of the US debt reduction.

In addition, Australia has a tax treaty with the US, which may limit or even eliminate that withholding altogether. In order to claim your treaty benefit you must submit form W8-BEN to your employer, and specify the treaty and the article of the treaty on lines 9 and 10.

I suggest you find a CPA who is US-licensed and works in Australia or with Australians to help you with this. Dealing with the treaty may be problematic if you don't know what you're doing. I'm pretty sure a professional adviser who deals with your type of clients will be able to help you quickly and inexpensively.

American taxes are more horrific than any horror movie you've ever seen. Welcome to our world. We deal with the IRS so often that some of us even consider it being the normal way of things...

  • Brilliant - thanks for the assistance, esp in regard to the tax treaty. – David Halliday Mar 12 '14 at 0:48

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