Tax challenges

As a foreign national outside the US expecting to receive royalties from a US publisher, I had to apply  to the IRS for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). I followed a seemingly easy step-by-step guide, and I thought filling in the paperwork and getting the documentation needed went rather smoothly. In fact, the feeling of it being just a tad bit too easy and nowhere near the horror stories I came across on the good old Internet, should have set off a few alarm bells. Six weeks after sending my application, I received a reply stating that the documentation I provided wasn’t good enough. What? I had the passport copy notarized, as requested. By the issuing authority, also as requested.

Phoning the US costs a fortune, but I was on a mission. After spending ten minutes in a queue (which was acceptable – it could have been worse), I talked to some very nice people who confirmed that I need to have the passport copy notarized by the exact same issuing authority that was mentioned in the passport. Apparently, the US does not recognize the Norwegian court system as an authority – because it’s the police who issue the actual passports. Gaaaaaah.

I could, of course, send my passport to the IRS and the matter would be solved within weeks. Only, I don’t have weeks. Summer is coming – I need my passport to board a plane here in Europe. I can travel without a passport through much of Europe, but not by plane. And I’m going somewhere by plane this summer. So no original passport can be sent to the IRS.

I could also travel to Oslo and, by appointment, get a notarized copy at the US embassy – but that’ll cost me a fortune since I don’t live in the vicinity of the capital. I’d have to fork out a good few hundred dollars to fly down there and up again. Plus there’s the $50 notary fee (which I paid once already at the courthouse).

I contacted the police station where I got the passport to see if they could help with a notarized copy. I was told they don’t notarize anymore and they said I should go to the courthouse. When I explained the situation to the very understanding desk clerk, she said she’d copy and notarize for me anyway, because they do in fact have the appropriate stamps and all. It’s just that they have better things to do (like issue passports to the never-ending queue), and so they tell people to go to the courthouse where the city’s notary office is. Exactly why I went to the courthouse in the first place! I expected to have to pay the $50 fee again, but she did it for free. I left with a wide smile and a notarized copy in my hand. 🙂

The thing is, though, this easy sailing leads me to believe that the IRS will find something wrong with the copy and the official stamp (which now has the exact same name as the issuing authority mentioned in the passport), and send me a new letter telling me the documents aren’t correct.

Fingers crossed I’m wrong.

To be continued…

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