As I'm in the preliminary stages of preparing for my first "proper" ebook release I realised that I needed to stop faffing around and (finally) apply for an EIN from the US Internal Revenue Service.
The thing is, I'm terrible with phones. Anything that involves calling people I will try to put off time and again. It's hard to believe that I was actually a legal secretary once upon a time (well, four or five years ago) and therefore had to field calls all the time.
As a result, it's been pointed out to me that with the amount of time I've now spent avoiding calling the IRS, I could have just faxed them the relevant form and had the EIN... so, with that in mind, I loaded up Skype with £10 credit, sat in my office, steeled myself and gave them a call.
Whereon, having selected option "1" from the automated system... I promptly ended up on hold. Their opening hours are 6am to 11pm EST so I was actually ringing around 10am, pretty much when other people finally screw up the courage to ring about tax issues, but I was only on hold for about 6 minutes, which was impressive. If I'd been ringing the UK version I'm pretty sure it would have been significantly longer than that.
When my call was answered, I'm not entirely sure I made myself clear straight out the gate (I'm really out of practice with phones...) but once we got past my stupidity and he identified the fact that I'm clearly an idiot he spelled everything out for me and made it all significantly less scary. We went through the form SS4, which I'd already filled out in Acrobat (you can download both it and its help file here), and I discovered that I am apparently unable to phrase the letter "D" (it's the Midlands English accent), which made life difficult as my address contains a few of the little blighters... but about ten minutes later he gave me my EIN and also answered my question on whether I have to file a 0 amount to the IRS for tax purposes (the answer is no, you just file taxes in your own country as normal).
So I'd like to extend a huge thank you to the lovely Mr. Witt, should he ever see this (and hopefully I've got his name right; I'm terrible when I panic), because he spelled my name properly, he made the whole process easy, quick and painless, and he also made me laugh (intentionally).
If you're putting off getting your EIN because it seems daunting, or because calling the US is a frightening and potentially expensive experience, don't. It's a super-easy process, especially if you've already completed your SS4, you get your number straight away over the phone with a confirmation posted to you, and the best part?
Efficient and affordable.