As I am not a US citizen, the dividend that I receive from US-listed ETF are subject to 30% withholding tax. It is OK for US equity ETF, such as Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI) that I own, because the dividend originated from US companies. However, for non-US equity ETF, such as Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock ETF (VWO), the dividend is also subject to the withholding tax. Is there a way to claim back this withheld tax on non-US equity ETF from Uncle Sam?
How to claim?
Well, a Taiwanese investor/blogger by the name of greenhorn has successfully claimed back withheld tax for non-US equity ETF dividend. He detailed the steps in Filing for Tax Refund with Form 1040NR (sorry, it is written in Mandarin). To be able to do this, you need Form 1042-S that you broker (hopefully) send you every year, and the form must show that you have overpaid the tax, as shown in the figure below (from the above article by greenhorn).
To be specific, in item “Income Code 06”, Gross Inome (Box 2) should only include US-sourced dividend (e.g. VTI), such that Gross Income (Box 2) times 30% should be less than U.S. Federal tax withheld (Box 7), i.e.
B*30% < C
The difference (C – B*30%) is the overpaid tax that you can claim back. This is good news to me as I can now claim back the withheld tax of my VWO.
However, my 2007 Form 1042-S from optionsXpress shows that A*30% = B, as shown below.
This means optionsXpress does not differentiate between US- and non-US-sourced dividend. My VWO dividend was included in the Gross Income (Box 2) and therefore, I could not claim back my withheld tax from Form 1042-S. The form does not show that I have overpaid the tax, as A*30% equals B.
This is not unique to me, as others have reported that their brokers also include both US and non-US sourced dividend as Gross Income in their Form 1042-S. In Filing for Refund of Overpaid NRA Withheld Tax with Form 1040NR, readers of the article reported that Zecco and MBTrading are two of the brokers that do this, making the Form 1042-S not suitable to claim back withheld tax. Other readers and the blogger greenhorn himself reported that Form 1042-S from eTrade and FirstTrade do differentiate between US- and non-US-sourced dividend, hence effective for claiming back withheld tax.
So, for me, I gave up this avenue to claim back withholding tax on my VWO dividends.