What Are W-8 Forms?
May 14, 2023 By Rick Novak

Are you an independent contractor looking to get paid but need help determining what forms to fill out? Welcome! The company you are working with has asked you to complete a W-8 form. Confused?

Don't worry. This blog post will explain all there is to know about these important forms and why they're necessary for independent contractors. Let's dive right in - learn more about how W-8s work, the different versions, who needs them, and when, plus answers to any other questions you may have. So keep on reading if this tax form sparks your interest.

Understanding W-8 Forms and Their Purpose

W-8 Forms, or Certificates of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting, are used by foreign individuals and entities to prove their foreign status to reduce their tax liability on income earned in the United States. This can include interest, dividends, capital gains, and other forms of investment income subject to U.S. taxation.

By providing a W-8 Form, foreign taxpayers may take advantage of tax treaties between the United States and their home country and other favorable tax treatment available under the Internal Revenue Code. In addition, foreign persons may also be required to provide a W-8 Form to receive certain types of payments (such as pension payments) without U.S. withholding tax. Understanding when and how to file a W-8 Form is important for any foreign person earning income in the United States.

It's important to note that not all foreign taxpayers must provide a W-8 Form. The filing requirement is dependent on your tax situation. In some cases, you may be required to provide a W-8 Form to the payer of your income; in other cases, the withholding agent may not require one. A qualified tax professional can help you determine whether you must file a W-8 Form for any given payment.

If you're a foreign individual or entity who must file a W-8 Form, the exact type of form you must provide will depend on your particular situation. The most common forms are W-8BEN (for individuals), W-8ECI (certain business income), and W-8 BEN-E (entities). Each of these forms has different requirements and is used to provide different types of information.

It's important to note that W-8 Forms must be updated periodically as your circumstances or tax status may change over time. Therefore, regularly checking in with a qualified tax professional ensures you file the correct form.

Who Needs to Submit W-8 Forms

The W-8 Form is an IRS document that is used to certify the foreign status of a person or entity. It must be completed by any individual, organization, or business not based in the United States and earns income from US sources, such as dividends, interest, royalties, capital gains, rentals, or other types of income.

The form ensures that a foreign person or entity pays the correct taxes. With a properly completed W-8 Form, the US government may be able to assess the right amount of taxes owed.

If you are receiving income from sources in the United States and are not a US citizen, you must complete the W-8 Form to receive any payments. It is important for anyone receiving income from US sources to properly submit their W-8 Forms and keep copies of them for their records.

It should be noted that submitting a W-8 Form does not exempt you from paying taxes on your income. It is merely a tool to ensure the right amount of taxes is paid. Failure to submit this form or inaccurately completing it can lead to tax penalties and other legal action from the IRS. Therefore, it is important to understand What W-8 forms are and how they must be filled out correctly.

For more information on W-8 Forms and the filing process, don't hesitate to contact a tax professional or review IRS Publication 515.

Different Types of W-8 Forms

The W-8 family of forms consists of numerous documents that serve different purposes. Your organization may require the completion of one or more of the following:

  1. W-8BEN: This is usually completed by an individual, not a U.S. citizen, allowing them to claim tax treaty benefits if available.
  2. W-8BEN-E: This form is used by entities or organizations, not U.S. citizens, and allows them to claim tax treaty benefits if available.W-8ECI: This document is used by individuals who generate income from a U.S.-controlled foreign corporation (FSC).
  3. 8EXP: This form is used by foreign and international governments that receive US income. It allows them to claim exemptions or reduced rates withholding by a tax treaty.
  4. W-8IMY: This document is used by intermediaries and flow-through entities such as partnerships, trusts, estates, limited liability companies, and other entities to provide U.S. withholding agents with the necessary information for income payments made through them.

These forms are important because they help ensure your organization complies with U.S. tax laws and regulations when paying foreign individuals or entities doing business in the United States.

How to Fill Out a W-8 Form

Form W-8 is an IRS form used by foreign entities to confirm their eligibility for reduced withholding tax on certain types of income. It can also be used to claim a refund of taxes withheld in error. The form must be filled out accurately and completely, as incorrect or incomplete information may result in the IRS denying the withholding exemption or claiming additional taxes.

The form consists of several sections, each asking for specific types of information. The first section requires basic contact information, such as name, address, and a Foreign Tax Identification Number or Social Security Number. The second section requests an explanation of the entity's foreign status and provides space to declare treaty benefits.

The third section asks for details about the reported income, such as whether or not it is from active trade or business and whether it is effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business. Finally, the last section requires a signature to certify that all information on the form is true and accurate.


What is a W-9 or W-8?

The W-9 form is a U.S. citizen or resident alien tax return, whereas the W-8 form is an IRS document that certifies your foreign status to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). A W-8 form must be filled out by nonresident aliens who receive certain types of income from U.S.-based sources.

What is W8 for US residents?

A W-8 form is not required for U.S.-resident individuals or entities; however, a W-9 form must be completed instead. A W-9 form is an IRS document that records the taxpayer's name, address, and Tax Identification Number (TIN).

Is W8 a face form?

No, W-8 forms are not face forms. They are documents that must be filled out and submitted to the IRS by nonresident aliens when they receive certain types of income from U.S.-based sources.


W-8 forms are essential documents for international wage earners to provide to be allowed to receive payments. Each of the six varieties serves a particular function, depending on the circumstance and country in which the recipient is situated. As such, it's important to understand when different forms should be used and how they must be filled out. Not updating your W-8 form when necessary can financially have costly financial consequences and even expand into applicable fines or penalties for non-compliance with IRS regulations.