Second Life tax requirements: form W-8BEN

As recently reported, in November, the Lab commenced e-mailing users meeting certain criteria to submit tax documentation to the Lab, which was subsequently expanded upon via a blog post on the matter.

In both the e-mail and blog post, reference was made to two IRS forms: W-9 (for U.S. residents) and Form W-8BEN (for non-U.S. residents), which must be completed and returned to Linden Lab within 30 days of any request for them being received in order to avoid having funds from accounts being withheld as stimplated by the US Internal Revenue Service (at the current rate of 28% of the gross amounts received).

With reference specifically to Form W-8BEN, concern has more recently be expressed at the fact it calls upon the person submitting it to provide either an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), either of which must be obtained from the IRS. However, the EIN is not something everyone outside of the US may be in a position to obtain, while obtaining an ITIN can take from between four and six weeks (compared to the Lab’s stated requirement that the form and supporting documentation be submitted to them within 30 days of receipt of the request).

Confusion was further heightened when several people indicated that had supplied Form W-8BEN to the Lab without either an EIN or ITIN.

As a number of people contacted me on this matter, I dropped a line to Peter Gray, the Lab’s Director of Global Communications, asking of the Lab could provide further clarification as to whether Form W-8BEN must have either an EIN or an ITIN in order to be submitted to the Lab. He replied with the following:

Hi Inara,

The users whom we have asked to submit the W8-BEN need only complete the fields in Part I, #1-5 (which does not require an EIN nor an ITIN). 

We regret the confusion this form has recently caused for some users. To help avoid this confusion moving forward, we’ve uploaded a new version of the form that allows users to complete only the necessary fields and will update the messages sent to users when this information is requested.



[My emphasis in the above.]

Hopefully, this will resolve any confusion where this particular matter is concerned.

Also, and purely as a point of reference:

Deirdre Young pointed me towards Kat Fetisov’s attempts to unravel W-8BEN, which have also been referred to by Ciaran Laval.

Kat’s circumstances, being what is effectively a UK-based Sole Trader, are such that she was able to get an EIN directly from the IRS, with the form-filling taking place over the ‘phone.  Those who are in a similar situation as Kat may want to consider approaching the IRS to obtain an EIN for future reference. Should this be the case, please refer to Kat’s blog, where she has provided clear guidance on doing so based on her experience.

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6 thoughts on “Second Life tax requirements: form W-8BEN

  1. Thaaaaaank you soooo much:) You just saved me from going through tons of trouble in obaining that ITIN.


    1. You’re welcome Jerry!

      Gald I could be a conduit. Peter Gray at the Lab deserves thanks as well for turning my enquiry on this specific matter around so rapidly.


  2. I know my reaction was affected by the way Amazon deal with this stuff, Linden Labs are making mistakes, rather than obviously trying to hide stuff. (Try finding the VAT rate Amazon actually charge on e-books.)


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