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FAQ

Why do banks send a letter to foreign students/workers asking for either theform of W-8BEN or W-9? What form is the right form to return?
I was on a H1B visa when I received such letter. Below is the result of myresearch on this matter. I am not a lawyer and perhaps you should not take allthe words presented here literally but hopefully overall this would answeryour question.Normally banks tax interest income i.e. the income one gains in the form ofinterest paid due to some money they have left with the bank. There is anexception to this rule though If a person has money in a US bank but theylive outside of US and they do not do business within US then IRS does nottax the interest paid on those savings. However in those cases thoseindividuals should explicitly let the bank know abut their status i.e. theylive outside US etc. This is accomplished by submitting the form W8BEN tothe bank.This implies if someone has been living and working in the US long enough andhave filed for example tax return last year then the above status does NOTapply to them. That is the case even if they are neither a green card holdernor a US citizen. In those cases they should send the form W9 instead ofW8BEN.Here are some more information about filling out the form W9. When signing theform W9 it requires you to admit you are a so called “US Person”. US citizensand ‘resident aliens‡ are perhaps two main categories of “US Persons”. Thedefinition of US citizen is clear here. As for ‘resident alien‡ green cardholders are typical examples of a ‘resident alien’. But even if you do nothave a green card but have lived in US long enough and for example havefiled tax return last year you are still considered a ‘resident alien‡ fortax purposes. See here for more information. So you can safely admit that youare a “US Person” when filling out the form W9.
Can I do freelance work in my home country when I return in summer fromcollege in the United States? Should I file with a W-8BEN or W-9 form?
If you are a US citizen or permanent resident you are required to reportincome earned outside the country although there’s a pretty large exclusionfrom tax for that income around 100000 I think. If you are neither acitizen nor a permanent resident you are not required to report nonUS incometo the IRS.W9 forms are not filed with the IRS they are forms you fill out for a USemployer so as a freelancer working outside the US there’s no reason toprepare one.W8BEN forms are used to certify foreign status to sources of US income tominimize tax withholding. Again if you are working for yourself and outsidethe US there’s no reason to prepare that form either.The exception might be if your freelance work is for a US company and yourchecks are being cut from the US andor direct deposited to a US bank account.In that case it could get complicated since the rules in the US on who is an“employee” and who is an “independent contractor” are complicated. The UScompany would be required to withhold income tax FICA and Medicare if you’rean “employee” but not if you’re a true “independent contractor.” If theywithhold then you may need to look into it further and possibly giving them aW8BEN might help you.Disclaimer This is not legal advice and it’s worth exactly what you paid mefor it zero.
Mortgage bank is requiring me to fill W-8BEN form and refusing to accept W-9.I’m on H1-B visa and live in US for the past 3 years. What should I do?
W8BEN is for nonresidents and not for residents. If your bank is asking forthat form chances are they will ask for many other documents such as yourcurrent employer to guarantee your job for n years etc down the line beforeit reaches doc stage. I would look for other mortgage banks and explain yoursituation and ask questions like have you recently within last monthprocessed mortgage applications for people on H1B or not.If you have loan contingency in your offer it is a good idea to back off fromthe offer and do a full loan approval before you try your next offer. Or askfor more time and find a big bank such as Wells Fargo Bank of America ChaseCiti etc. I found more success with these 4 compared to many other smallerbanks. In addition you need a loan agent who can vouch for you and can talkto underwriting and processing rather than mere salespeople most loan agentsare just sales peopleYou can always complain to CFPB. They are quick it is a free federalgovernment service and usually you get results within 2 weeks. Banks do notwant to keep complaints pending with CFPB. All it does is make the bankreview their process. When one large bank asked unnecessary documents from meI have used their service and bank obliged.Disclaimer Even though as a consumer I have done many mortgage loans 20from many banks and have gone through many tough situations consider this asgeneral in nature and just for info and cannot replace individualizedprofessional help.