Freelancing as an International Writer

The amount of freelance writing sites around these days wanting writers to submit W9 forms is increasing. This can make it difficult for international writers (like me!) to compete with US writers and earn a decent income.

If you haven't been asked to fill in a W9 form before, it's a form available from the IRS website that's basically a declaration that you're an American citizen, paying tax in the USA. Many content creation sites are asking their writers to fill in these forms to be sure they're only hiring Americans.

So where does this leave international writers?

You have a couple of options available to you. One is relatively easy and the other is a bit of a nightmare.

While there are still places around that will accept submissions from non-US writers, many of them are beginning to ask for W8 forms from any writer who can't submit a W9. A W8 form is basically a declaration that you're an international writer who is responsible for paying tax on your earnings in your own country. You simply fill it in and either fax it or snail-mail it to the company paying you.

That's the easy option and it's the one I'll choose whenever I can.

The not so easy option is applying for an ITIN and electing to pay tax on your US income to the IRS. This isn't fun. It's not always easy to co-ordinate with your own local tax laws and the paper work can be an exercise in torture.

An ITIN is an International Tax Identification Number and if you elect to pay tax on your US income directly to the IRS, you'll need to be familiar with the taxation laws in the USA or you'll need to hire a tax agent familiar with handling international clients.

For me personally, I get to file my taxes in the US three months before I'm required to file more taxes here in Australia. The ATO (Australian Taxation Office) will take into consideration any income I've already declared and paid tax on in the US before deciding to tax everything else I earn right here in Australia. Sigh.

My accountant has put two kids through college, bought a lovely Mercedes sports model and upgraded her computer and office furniture twice from the fees she charges international writers like me :(

I hope this makes it a little easier for any international writers out there.


Sunny Peter said...

Hey Bianca, I just loved the way you concluded that post. Anyway now for the serious bit of the post. It is indeed very informative and shows the wide experience that you have as a freelance writer. - Regards, Sunny

Gayze said...

Why do I feel this need, as a US citizen, to apologize in horror!

Man, you can't even get away from the IRS if you don't live here! LOL

Chuckles aside:
Bianca, you're always a wealth of solid info for writers online.

Bianca Raven said...

Thanks, Sunny and Gayze.

Taxes aren't so bad when you have a good accountant on your side, but there are a lot of Canadian, Australian and British writers online trying hard to work around these silly W9 forms!

jfjones said...

Hi Bianca,

Are you familiar with how this is done if you are an American writer working for a foreign company?

Angel K said...

Hey Bianca,
Just been reading your blog - it's a wealth of information for international freelance writers like myself. Australian too :-)
I was wondering how you've gone about writing at places that require an 'SSN' ? Does this IITN application provide an SSN too?