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Banking - Form W-8BEN

Banking - Form W-8BEN

Old Oct 24th 2005, 8:01 pm
  #1  
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Default Banking - Form W-8BEN

My son opened a bank account recently, and now they've sent him a Form W-8BEN to complete. Apparently it is a 'Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for US Tax Withholding'...

Anyone know what the heck this is about/for? (NB: he is an H4 and under 18)

I did of course ask my friendly bank but all they could really tell me that this is to do with the Patriot Act ('they make us ask for this now'), and that 'there is nothing to worry about - just sign it'.

Anybody else received this?
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Old Oct 24th 2005, 8:34 pm
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Default Re: Banking - Form W-8BEN

Has your son had any problems setting up a bank account? My daughter opened a bank account the first year she was in college with no problems. Just as her 2nd yr was about to commence, the bank put a hold on her account because of the form you have mentioned, I think and yes, it was because of 9/11. Seeminly because she didn't have a social security number she shouldn't have been able to open an account. I questioned that as I had been a joint holder of an account with my husband ever since we arrived here. Ah, said the kind lady, that's because we only need one social security number for an account. I remember the hold on her account at the time seem long and drawn out but in reality it was about 2 months. In that time, we had to get some documentation from our lawyers to say she wasn't entitled to ssn. Unfortunately, the letter heading was in the company name, not a government office. So we had to get a letter to say the lawyers do things via computer in these days of technology and there was no such paper.


We had similar problems with travellers cheques this summer with my FIL. Instead of American Express, he had Thomas Cook ones. No credit union would take them or local bank (even if they had been American Express). We took them to the Bank of America where he could only cash in $400 and then he had sign, counter sign and add his thumb print onto each $50 cheque plus sign another form for the B of A. When I asked the counter clerk about all this, I was told it was all down to government changes since 9/11. I hardly think an 80 yr scotsman is a threat to national security. He didn't even have to be fingerprinted on entry to the country because his finger prints are too old to scan properly.!

By this point my FIL was getting very frustrated and by now wanted to cash all his travellers cheques as he didn't fancy another day like that. So I tried another bank, Wells Fargo. This time all he had to do was sign the cheques in the normal fashion. No sure if the B of A was having us on or just that Wells fargo hadn't caught up with new government legislation.

Must admit things have certainly changed since we arrive as then we could cash travellers cheque at the supermarket let alone a bank!

I hear that its becoming increasingly difficult to open an account in the UK if you haven't lived there for a while. Glad we got the kids accounts before we left and kept our main account open.
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Old Oct 24th 2005, 9:21 pm
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Default Re: Banking - Form W-8BEN

Originally Posted by jjmb
Has your son had any problems setting up a bank account? My daughter opened a bank account the first year she was in college with no problems. Just as her 2nd yr was about to commence, the bank put a hold on her account because of the form you have mentioned, I think and yes, it was because of 9/11. Seeminly because she didn't have a social security number she shouldn't have been able to open an account.
Must admit things have certainly changed since we arrive as then we could cash travellers cheque at the supermarket let alone a bank!

I hear that its becoming increasingly difficult to open an account in the UK if you haven't lived there for a while. Glad we got the kids accounts before we left and kept our main account open.

OMG where do I start with all my US banking sagas!

On trying to open a joint account with my husband (who has a SSN, but I at the time did not), I was accused of being here illegally - in full earshot of several customers

The way financial institutions treat 'aliens' seems to be completely arbitrary. If they don't want you to have something, they'll invariably blame the Patriot Act.

We found it impossible to open most types of joint accounts - be it checking, money market or CDs - because my lack of SSN. (I was unwilling to have all our funds in my husband's name because the probate laws here are such that, if he had died, I would have been left high and dry.)

And yet we had no problems getting quite a large mortgage in joint names. Go figure!

I think the way you FIL was treated is both bizarre and disgusting.

To answer your question: We did not have a problem opening an account for our son because at that point we had been with the bank for several years and the bank official was familiar with us and our special circumstances. However, initially the account had to be opened with a UK address - only later were we able to change this to our US address. Bizarre or what?

Strangely, when I opened an account for his twin brother about 4 months previously, neither the contorted address change nor the Form W-8BEN were required...

And I certainly agree with you about the wisdom of keeping out UK accounts!
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Old Oct 24th 2005, 9:45 pm
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Default Re: Banking - Form W-8BEN

Some nice stories - I thought UK banks were bad til I came over here.

My checking accoung is with sh*tibank.
When I opened it the advisor suggested that I also apply for overdraft protection. I said no because at home they charge about £30 a quarter for that sort of thing. When he told me it was free I asked if there would be a problem with my lack of credit history - no problem at all he assures me.
A few weeks later and surprise, surprise the application is rejected because of my lack of a credit history. I also notice on the rejection letter that he has used some random address on the application. Took me 3 weeks to get transunion to change my address to the correct one. When I went into the bank to complain they didn't seem that bothered. I also asked them why he didn't tell me that my application was likely to fail due to my lack of credit. Apparently its illegal for them to make any kind of reference or judgement on a customers credit. When I then asked why he didn't just tell me that when I asked him instead of assuring me that it wouldn't be a problem they just shrugged their shoulders.
Best bit came when I lodged my first pay cheque. Took a month for the it to clear. Apparently due to the patriot act the put a freeze on all new accounts for the first 5 weeks. Couldn't f-ing believe it - what the **** is the point of all this stuff anyway. Let's face it, if anyone wants to repeat 9/11 they can just fund themselves with foreign credit cards so why the hell would they need to open a US one in the first place.

Why am I still with Sh*tibank - well as soon as things start to reach some sort of normality for me I'll be dropping them like a hot brick, there's no doubt about that.

Rant over
Goodbye
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Old Oct 24th 2005, 9:57 pm
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Default Re: Banking - Form W-8BEN

Originally Posted by Elvira
OMG where do I start with all my US banking sagas!

On trying to open a joint account with my husband (who has a SSN, but I at the time did not), I was accused of being here illegally - in full earshot of several customers

The way financial institutions treat 'aliens' seems to be completely arbitrary. If they don't want you to have something, they'll invariably blame the Patriot Act.

We found it impossible to open most types of joint accounts - be it checking, money market or CDs - because my lack of SSN. (I was unwilling to have all our funds in my husband's name because the probate laws here are such that, if he had died, I would have been left high and dry.)

And yet we had no problems getting quite a large mortgage in joint names. Go figure!

I think the way you FIL was treated is both bizarre and disgusting.

To answer your question: We did not have a problem opening an account for our son because at that point we had been with the bank for several years and the bank official was familiar with us and our special circumstances. However, initially the account had to be opened with a UK address - only later were we able to change this to our US address. Bizarre or what?

Strangely, when I opened an account for his twin brother about 4 months previously, neither the contorted address change nor the Form W-8BEN were required...

And I certainly agree with you about the wisdom of keeping out UK accounts!
Initially we had no problem with Elisabeth's account which was with our employer's credit union. The problems started when they began to implement the changes to banking imposed by the government in response to 9/11.
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Old Oct 24th 2005, 10:10 pm
  #6  
 
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Default Re: Banking - Form W-8BEN

Originally Posted by Elvira
My son opened a bank account recently, and now they've sent him a Form W-8BEN to complete. Apparently it is a 'Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for US Tax Withholding'...

Anyone know what the heck this is about/for? (NB: he is an H4 and under 18)

I did of course ask my friendly bank but all they could really tell me that this is to do with the Patriot Act ('they make us ask for this now'), and that 'there is nothing to worry about - just sign it'.

Anybody else received this?
I filled one out when I first got here, to go on my wifes account, I believe it just means you're a Johnny Foreigner and not a Citizen or PR. When he is, he has to fill out a form W9, but what do I know?
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Old Oct 26th 2005, 11:48 pm
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Default Re: Banking - Form W-8BEN

Here is the form explanation on the IRS website:

http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/iw8ben.pdf

Oh goodness, the banking system is from the dark ages...

I recall arriving here from S.Africa years ago (probably has one of the most advanced banking systems in the world) and astonished that I'd been sent back to the stone ages...

My ma came over for 2 months on vacation, and brought a cashiers check from her bank whose head office was in Lisbon, drawn out from the Head Office account (her branch had had a run on travelers checks that Saturday, hence the cashier's check).

The country's largest bank's manager at my local branch told her that it would take six months to clear her check. My ma's jaw dropped and she asked if they were sending the check to Europe by sailboat??!!!!

I said, no problem. Called her bank's representative office in New York and had the money in her newly opened account (ah, the good old days pre-911) within 4 days of them receiving her check.
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Old Oct 27th 2005, 5:06 am
  #8  
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Default Re: Banking - Form W-8BEN

perhaps its just me?, but i didnt have any problems opening up a bank account when i came over (Washington Mutual) - they didnt make me sign any funny forms, or ask me for my SSN

Anthony
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Old Oct 27th 2005, 4:06 pm
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Default Re: Banking - Form W-8BEN

As far as I know the W-8BEN is just for the bank to know if they should withhold income tax on any interest earned or not, and has nothing to do with the Patriot Act. If you are exempt from income tax withholding, you fill W-8BEN, if not, then you fill W-9... at least that's my understanding but at least someone at the bank should know about these forms?
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