I decided to spend my friday afternoon setting up all the necessary information in preparation for selling my applications on the iPhone App Store. Since I am based in the EU, not in the US, I ran into a brick wall of trouble.
Once logged into the iTunesConnect system all seemed very straight forward. Since I watched the Publishing on the App Store video that Apple released on iTunes yesterday I knew I had to sign a contract, so I clicked the Contracts, Tax, & Banking Information link.
I then chose to add a new contract for Paid Applications to my account. There are three necessary steps, so I start by filling in my contact information. Not a problem.
I then need to supply Bank Info, like the name and address of my local bank. So far nothing troublesome at all. I also need to provide:
Bank Swift Code
Sort Code (UK) / SIC (SZ)
Here things were getting a little hairy, but I was able to figure everything out. My bank actually provided a convenient account number to IBAN converter and the Swift code (althought they call it a BIC code) on their website.
Finally I just have to add my tax info to the contract and I should be ready to go. But as it turns out, this step requires filling in something called Form W-8BEN and involves the IRS. I have to provide a US Taxpayer Identification Number, so I start exploring how to obtain one of these magic numbers.
As I am registered as an individual I need either a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). I don't think I qualify for a SSN, not being a US citizen and living in Europe and all, so I start reading up on getting an ITIN. As it turns out this will take six to eight weeks and involves filling out another form, form W-7.
As forms go it is actually pretty good, only one page long. But reading the instructions it seems I have to send it in with my passport, not a copy mind you, the original passport. They promise to return it to me in 60 days.
Now, I'm not about to put my passport in an envelope and send it off across the Atlantic any time soon. I need it for my vacation this summer! I'm actually a bit disappointed as I was hoping to be able to start selling applications on the App Store in July. I just feel this could have been handled easier.
Apple Inc. does have a presence in the EU, so how come I have to register for an american tax number anyway?!
Getting an ITAN is a PAIN
Peter Nixey also notes the trouble getting an ITIN in his article about moving his business to the US:
You can’t get an Social Security Number SSN without being a US resident which means instead getting either an EIN (Employer ID Number) or an ITIN (Individual Tax Payer Number) both of which are a PAIN.
To cut a long story short, despite our best bureaucratic wrangling we were unable to attain ITINs. As if from nowhere though, an EIN popped out of a random conversation we were having with an official who it seems we charmed / confused into co-operation. It seems out that EINs actually require almost no paperwork and that the main thing required is persistence.
Quoted from Coming to America: Getting visas to do business in Silicon Valley
For me getting an EIN is not an option as I don't have a company. Although those numbers seem to be only a phone call away.
UPDATE: This turns out not to be true. After reading up on the SS-4 form for applying for an EIN it turns out foreign (non US) individuals can apply for EIN to comply with IRS withholding regulations. So I called the number (+1-215-516-6999) and ended up with an EIN in just 5 minutes. Very convenient, I just wish Apple had made this more clear on their application site.