The IRS requires that you fill out a W-8BEN if you are a "foreign person," and own assets or earn income that requires withholding. You as the payee provide this one-page form to the institution, such as a bank, that is the custodian of these assets. The form is also used when you're due royalties, rent, or compensation for services performed.
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Gather the Form
Obtain the form by requesting it from the IRS or by downloading and printing it from the IRS website. There's no charge by the agency for copies of their forms. You can prepare the form yourself or have a representative, such as an attorney or tax professional, complete it on your behalf. Tax software may have forms included that can be completed within the program and then printed out.
Complete the first section, which is for identification purposes, and to establish that you are a foreign person. Line 1 is for your name and Line 2 for your country of citizenship. Note that by the IRS rules, legal residency in the U.S. means you're not considered a foreign person -- U.S. permanent residents don't use Form W8-BEN. Line 3 is for your permanent address, Line 4 for other mailing address if applicable. Line 5 is for a U.S. tax identification number, and Line 6 for a foreign tax ID number. Line 7 is for your own reference number, if you're using one, and Line 8 for your date of birth.
Complete Section II, which allows you to claim benefits from a reciprocal tax treaty. If your country of origin has such a treaty with the U.S., and you pay taxes in that country, you may be able to take the amount as a credit against any U.S. income tax you owe. Line 9 identifies the country and Line 10 allows you to claim a waiver of a certain portion of withholding. IRS rules normally require 30 percent withholding on certain income of foreign persons.
Certify Your Information
Sign and date Section III, which certifies that the information you've furnished is true and correct. If an agent is completing the form for you, the agent must sign and date this section. Once the form is completed, it's turned over to the individual or organization that requires it, not to the IRS. The recipient keeps it on file as evidence that the tax laws apply to the assets or payments according to the IRS rules on foreign persons.