How to fill out the W-8BEN-E form for your PayPal account (so your Australian online shop can function!)

If your small business is registered as an Australian proprietary limited company (a Pty Ltd for short), you may have been asked by PayPal to complete a W-8BEN-E form to comply with US tax law changes.

Creative Minds is, for tax purposes, a company. A company of one (me!). Which makes life easy for the most part, but sometimes, when you’re a capital b Business, not so much.

As I use PayPal as a payment gateway for my online shop, it was a bit of a shock to learn this week that my PayPal account had been limited (read: made unusable) because I hadn’t filled out a US tax form - that is now required of all new and existing business accounts - in the correct way. 

My enquiry to PayPal’s (very courteous) customer service line was met with the advice to ‘just fill out as much as you can’ and submit it. Well, if you’ve ever taken a look at the 8-page W-8BEN-E form, you’ll understand how ‘as much as I can’ translated to name, address, signature and date.

Ba-bow. Form rejected, account still limited. The week my new book went on sale. *stress face emoji*

PayPal’s advice on this issue is restricted - but I can see how their hands are tied. As a US company they have to ensure the security of their customer’s accounts, and unless their customers, regardless of location, comply with the laws in their country, they have no option to temporarily limit them. Their literal advice? Google the answer.

I cried. I was skeptical. I felt like a small business failure.

However - unlike when you have a minor ailment- in this instance, Googling the symptoms did actually help. Being a visual person, this PDF guide from Morgan Stanley was the resource that I found to be the most helpful showing step-by-step how to fill out that dastardly form for Australian companies.

[Now, I should mention here that obviously I’m not a) a tax lawyer or a tax professional of any kind; and b) I have no idea what your individual or business circumstances are. I’m just an Australian citizen, standing in front of a W-8BEN-E form, asking WTF do I do here. Perhaps you are too. So take my story as advice at your own risk and consult someone in the know if you have any doubts!]

Long story short, I did what the guide said and, huzzah - my PayPal account was reactivated within 48 hours. Phew.

Thanks, internet. I feel more like a CEO (or CFO?) today than ever.