The Self-Published Author and the 30%

Widdershins On Red VelvetI read this article today by David Gaughran on his blog, ‘Lets Get Digital – How To Self-Publish And Why You Should’. It’s on his ‘Practicalities’ page, and if you scroll down to the last topic you’ll come across this information:

Amazon, Smashwords, etc, are obliged by US law to withhold 30% of a self-published authors royalties unless they are provided with a Social Security Number? (for US authors) They hold on to that 30% until the end of the tax year. If it’s not claimed then it goes to the IRS.

International authors are subject to the same law, and they can apply to get that 30% released as well.

There are two ways to do this – get an ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number) from the IRS, which, from what I’ve just read, is a painfully long process, or you can get an EIN, (Employee Identification Number) also from the IRS, which is slightly less traumatic.

If you don’t live in the US and are, or are planning to, Self-Publish, these two posts give you step-by-step instructions on how to obtain these numbers.

How to get an EIN (Employee Identification Number) which I got from Catherine Ryan Howard’s Blog, Catherine, Caffeinated.

How to get an ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number)

If, after reading these posts, you’re tempted to think it’s not worth the effort, take a moment to study this chart.


Just as writing is an art, it’s also a business, and making sure we get all that is due to us in return for our blood and words, we need to take care of business … and then get back to writing!


“No, there is literally nothing on the business side that I wouldn’t sacrifice in a heartbeat to have an extra couple of hour’s writing. Nothing” J.K. Rowling

14 comments on “The Self-Published Author and the 30%

  1. Erin says:

    It’s somewhat easier if you’re a US citizen, of course. You *can* apply for an EIN, if you want to, but the Social Security number is the same as the ITIN, and we’re all required to have that. Sorry you have to jump through more hoops!


    • Widdershins says:

      Yep, it’s dead easy for US based self-pub authors …I do wonder how many of them know about the 30% though. I’ve been surfing all sorts of self-pub blogs for a while and this was the first I heard about it. I wonder if it’s one of those ‘assumed knowledge’ things.


      • Erin says:

        At least a few of those markets won’t pay one until one has listed such information, if one is in the U.S. I don’t know what their rules are if one is outside the U.S. Amazon and CreateSpace, for example, insist on having that info up front. So I for one have never mentioned it because I figured people had to have it to get their money.


        • Widdershins says:

          Excellent additional information 😀 as soon as I’m closer to self-pubbing – probably later this year – I’ll be jumping through these hoops, and most definitely blogging about same! 😀


  2. I appreciate the info, Widdershins. I wonder how long that 30% holding w/o giving an SSN has been going on. I’ve never heard of it, but then I haven’t self-published yet. Still, I would think that Amazon or any of those other sites wouldn’t do anything without first getting an SSN.


  3. jannatwrites says:

    I didn’t know about the 30% (but then again, I’ve not self-published.) Good to keep in mind, though!


  4. ktcwrites says:

    i will certainly be jumping these hoops later in the year. Muchly appreciated, Widdershins.


  5. marymccall says:

    This information came with perfect timing as I ponder Indie for a certain manuscript, so I thank you for the information. Unfortunately, if the IRS wants money, they’ll find a way to get it, right down to taking it from a disability check. It’s illegal to garnish SS retirement or disability checks, mind you. But if the IRS wants money, they skip the legal system and just take it.
    On another note, that EIN let’s you shop at Costco and Sam’s without paying the surcharge. LOL!
    Have a great week, Widder!


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