Purpose of the form lies in establishing status for chapter 3 purposes. Foreign persons are subject to U.S. tax at a 30% rate on income they receive from U.S. different sources.
You must give Form W-8BEN to the withholding agent or payer if you are a nonresident alien who is the beneficial owner of an amount subject to withholding, or if you are an account holder of an FFI documenting yourself as a nonresident alien.
Generally, a Form W-8BEN will remain in effect for purposes of establishing foreign status for a period starting on the date the form is signed and ending on the last day of the third succeeding calendar year, unless a change in circumstances makes any information on the form incorrect.
More information on W-8BEN can be found on the IRS page here.
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