There are one million business-related details that seem designed to suck the fun out of the indie publishing process. I’d love to sit huddled in the basement thinking about monsters and ghosts, instead of puzzling out advertising plans and taxes.
But I would also love to get adequately paid for my work (hypothetically, it could happen some day. Don’t burst that bubble, okay? It’s Christmas time, for crimmey’s sake)
But good news, I killed one of my lingering business irritants! Selling my wares via an American website, my earnings are automatically taxed by the U.S. government. To be specific, they withhold 30% of the money in anticipation of your tax filings in the future. Now, my country (Canada) has a tax treaty with the U.S. That treaty eliminates the 30% withholding IF you can prove that you qualify.
And so I studied the exemption qualification process, furrowing my brow in a vain attempt to understand. The stumbling block that kept me from completing it was getting the right identification number. Did I need an ITIN, an ETN, a WTFISTHISBULLSH*T number? And whatever the actual needed number was, the process demanded that I send my passport, driver’s license, blood sample, hand-etched pictograph of my entire family tree (or certified true copies of each). That costs money. In fact, it was goign to cost more than the meagre amount of revenues sitting waiting for me in my smashwords sales account.
Remember when I said I studied the process? Well, I did a pretty awful job at that. Details have never been my strong suit, so it is reallly astounding I’ve ever written a logically consistent sentence, much less 4 novels in a continuing series.
With the help of the internet, I reread this minor detail: “Or, provide your non-U.S. tax identification number”. That sounded strange and mysterious. Why would I, as a regular Canadian, have such an odd thing? Finally, the answer came to me (okay, I googled it and found the real answer 3 pages in): that number is my Social Insurance Number or S.I.N. You know, the number I got when I was 14 but still haven’t memorized? That one.
With that one revelation, a point of minor but perpetual stress was removed. I used my SIN to complete the tax forms on Smashwords and Amazon (for ebooks and print books, respectively), and moved on with my life. It is astounding how the whole bookwriting machine can grind to a halt while the accounting department puzzles over some financial minutia. So my lesson to you all, especially to my fellow Canucks thinking about self-publishing, is this: sometimes, the answer is much simpler than you think it is.