What is the W-8BEN-E and what is its purpose?
The W-8BEN-E is an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) mandated form to collect correct Nonresident Alien (NRA) taxpayer information for entities for reporting purposes and to document their status for tax reporting purpose. (The form for individuals is the W-8BEN.)
In addition, the W-8BEN-E is a required document when making Non-U.S. Source Income payments to a Nonresident Alien (NRA); these are payments when the services performed are (1) performed by a NRA, and (2) are performed outside the United States. For details on Non-U.S. Source Income payments, please refer to Non-U.S. Source Income (Payments to Non-Resident Aliens for work performed Outside the U.S.)
Nonresident Aliens are subject to U.S. tax at a 30% rate on income they receive from U.S. sources that consists of:
- Interest (including certain original issue discount (OID))
- Compensation for, or in expectation of, services performed
- Substitute payments in a securities lending transaction
- Other fixed or determinable annual or periodical gains, profits, or income
This tax is imposed on the gross amount paid and is generally collected by withholding under section 1441. A payment is considered to have been made whether it is made directly to the beneficial owner or to another person, such as an intermediary, agent, or partnership, for the benefit of the beneficial owner.
A withholding agent or payer of the income may rely on a properly completed W-8BEN-E to treat a payment associated with the W-8BEN-E as a payment to a foreign person who beneficially owns the amounts paid. If applicable, the withholding agent may rely on the W-8BEN-E to apply a reduced rate of–or exemption from–withholding at source also known as a tax treaty benefit. See applicable tax treaties at Tax Treaties for Independent Contractors and Scholarships.
How is the W-8BEN-E used?
Effective January 1, 2010 the Form W-8BEN has two uses at the UW:
- A completed and signed W-8BEN-E is required for all tax reportable transactions made to a Nonresident Alien (NRA) of the United States. This includes all payment mechanisms used at the UW. The W-8BEN-E is the equivalent of the W-9 for used for U.S. Persons. Tax reportable payment and associated Account Codes are posted at 1099-MISC and 1042-S Tax Reportable Payments (PDF).
- Use Form W-8BEN-E for Scholarship/Fellowship Grants if a tax treaty exemption applies. The treaty must include a provision for Scholarship/Fellowship Grants. To determine if the tax treaty applies, refer to Tax Treaties for Independent Contractors and Scholarships.
Who can sign a W-8BEN-E?
The person who signs a W-8BEN-E must be a Nonresident Alien (NRA).
Is a digital of electronic signature acceptable on a W-8BEN-E?
See Financial Managers Meeting (FMM) 2/8/22 presentation slides (PDF) pages 43-44.
How often does the W-8BEN-E need to be obtained?
The UW policy is that a new W-8BEN-E must be obtained for all Nonresident Alien (NRA) payments made by the UW. Prior year W-8BEN-E forms cannot be used in subsequent years because Nonresident Alien (NRA) statuses may change from year-to-year, and even during a calendar year.
What versions of the W-8BEN-E will the UW accept?
The UW will only accept current versions of any Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or Wisconsin Department of Revenue forms. These can be found at the IRS Forms webpage and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue Forms webpage.
Use of a non-current form will delay payment processing because the non-current form has to be returned to the preparer. The current form must be completed before the payment can be processed so the university can be in compliance with IRS and WI DOR regulations and forms.