On extremely rare occasions I need to fax something. I’m amazed this ancient technology still has a place in communication, but there are holdouts. One example is the United States Taxpayer Advocate, based for some mysterious reason in Puerto Rico.
Ever since before I went to Hawai’i in December 20081 I’ve been trying to extract an ITIN number from the US Internal Revenue Service.
The photo shows a Secretary Bird, flanked by Crowned Cranes, in Honolulu Zoo.
An ITIN is an ‘Individual Taxpayer Identification Number’. It’s the thing that will magically allow me to be paid in full by the University of Hawai’i for the amounts they offered to pay me for the work I did. That includes an honorarium, some per diems and a partial contribution towards my airfare.
Without the ITIN they withhold an enormous amount of tax — around 30% — that disappears into a black hole and I never see it again. I know this because that’s what happens with my royalties for WordPress 2 Visual Quickstart Guide. Last year a pleasantly large tax refund turned into a piffling amount that wouldn’t pay for a good dinner because of this.
New Zealand has a tax treaty with the US. That’s supposed to mean that I get the tax back when I send in my New Zealand tax return. Except that my income is sufficiently low that the rate of tax I pay here is much lower than 30%. That somehow translates into a much smaller refund than I anticipated.
My accountant seems to understand all this. It’s all too much for me.
The ITIN will make the difference. Apparently. I don’t know yet, because all my efforts to obtain this magic incantation have been stymied.
All correspondence has to be by mail. The IRS hasn’t heard of email, or uploading forms via the website. Mail between the US and New Zealand takes a week to 10 days at best speed.
I completed the required form, with difficulty, and after consulting multiple pages of ‘help’ for the one-page form. After several weeks the IRS rejected it, offering multi-choice reasons why that might have been. Clearly they didn’t know.
I checked and yes, I had supplied address, passport number and other possible missing information.
After examining the form really closely I concluded I’d completed Question 1 incorrectly so I sent off a freshly completed form.
Time passed. The IRS rejected it, offering that I am supposedly eligible for a Social Security number. Oh really?
I decided to call the ‘Help’ number listed at the top of their rejection letter. One hour on an international call led me to understand that ‘help’ meant restating the reasons for the rejection.
But I also received the suggestion that I could apply to the Taxpayer Advocate because the IRS hadn’t resolved my ‘problem’ even though I had provided correct information.
I downloaded yet another form, but this time have been able to return it by fax, shaving a week or so off time spent in transit. Now I’m waiting. Again.
Now I’ve detailed what is actually a short version of the wretched quest for an ITIN I see I’ll need to write about my faxing adventures in a different post. Stay tuned for helpful information.
1 See The Visa is mine.