I see in today’s news that Amazon, Waterstones, and B&N are all going through their catalogues to root out porn / otherwise offensive titles, as it has been found that many self-pub books and ebooks are ignoring the rules. WH Smith has even closed down its website totally until they have sorted out the problem.
As usual, there is always a minority element that abuses systems that work well for the majority, causing problems and reputation damage for the innocent. One hopes that there will be some kind of penalty meted out, to drive home the point that what one does on one’s own website is different to what should happen in public.
The above online bookshops have reacted pretty strongly, even going to the extent of searching for all ero*tic (in case WordPress also does a keyword hunt, I’m trying to keep these keyword comments clean!) keywords and removing such titles wholesale. I guess, with millions of books around, that’s the only way to be sure. It does impact on those authors and publishers that are operating legally, but the fact remains that ero*tica is a grey area that has its risks as well as rewards.
Rest assured that no books or ebooks published by us (both Stellium and Zampub), or our personal publishing titles, ever have such content – we check every manuscript pretty thoroughly, as it’s easy to lose credibility, but very hard to rebuild. We probably wouldn’t have taken on eleventy-seven shades of whatever either, along with many other publishers. Would have kicked ourselves later? Who knows. Where do you draw the line? Reminds one of the old joke where the youngster asks his Dad about the difference between fact and potential – the thing is, I can’t repeat the rest, albeit mild, else you might not see this blog! Have to see how far this issue goes.
Trouble is, lines keep moving, so we each have to decide: set our own limits, or go with the flow. Even David Cameron has recently commented that the line is moving so far that there’s a danger of porn becoming the norm.
Also, remember that most of the world’s bankers over the past decade or so, decided to go with the flow…
Here’s an issue for all the self-pubbers out there; if you have a book or books selling through Amazon, you’ll have received a message warning you about IRS withholding tax regulations. Briefly, if you don’t register with the IRS, Amazon and any other entities selling your books (and ebooks) in the States are obliged to withhold 30% of your income / royalties, etc. And it’s not easy to get it back from the IRS once it’s been paid in.
Amazon does give you a reasonable set of instructions about how to deal with the issue, but it may not be clear to everybody, especially if you aren’t good at dealing with forms and tax stuff in general, so I’m putting down a few pointers here that may be useful.
First of all, the bad news. You can’t avoid the issue. Sooner or later, if not already, any commercial entity that sells things for you in the States will withhold 30% of your sales income, whatever form it takes – royalties, direct income, whatever. They will pass this money on to the IRS, and they can’t do anything later about getting it back – you would have to deal directly with the IRS, and your (relatively) unidentifiable money (i.e. if you’re not registered with the IRS ) would be difficult to trace.
Secondly, the good news. It’s actually not that difficult nowadays to sort things out, usually pretty swiftly.
What are needed are an EIN number and a W-8BEN form. Once you have the EIN number, it’s inserted into the W-8BEN form, and you make copies of that form, sending one copy to each organisation that you deal with. They can then release all the millions of dollars you’ve made with your Seventy Shades of Grey book! Provided you’re based in the UK, there is an income tax treaty between us and the USA, so in most cases, you won’t need to pay any USA tax. If you’re based elsewhere, the same may or may not apply. Check with the IRS website.
The first step is to get onto the IRS website and download a copy of form W-8BEN. Get all the information needed for the form, fill it in.
Then, phone the IRS (I don’t have the phone number offhand, if you can’t find it or the IRS website, let me know, leave a comment on this article, and I’ll trace it for you).
You can deal with them by snail mail or fax, but the system has been upgraded over the years, and the best way is by phone. You may sometimes have to hold on for ten, twenty minutes, but it’s worth the expense to save you grey hairs. I gather that unless they’re very busy, you may get through pretty quickly.
I have found them to be friendly and helpful. They will take down your details (as needed on the W-8BEN form) and if you have all the answers ready, they will give you an EIN number over the phone. You then complete a clean copy of the W-8BEN form, in fact, make a number of copies, as you’ll need to send / fax one to each organisation you deal with. With Amazon, it’s even easier, you can fill in the details online.
You will normally need to be registered with our own HMRC to take advantage of the income tax treaty with the USA, but everyone is different, I can’t cover all eventualities in a short article.
If you need, I can help with a few general questions about the system, but for more complicated matters, do talk to the IRS people – the feedback I’ve seen is that they are helpful.
Categories: Legal, Links, Money, Uncategorized
Tags: Amazon, Income tax, income tax treaty, Internal Revenue Service, IRS, IRS tax forms, Links, selling books in the USA, stellium ltd, stellium publishing, Tax, USA royalties, Withholding tax