Tuesday, February 4, 2014

trouble is a friend

So, I'm planning some back-end fill-ins for old content (none of it hugely relevant at this point, just drafts that are aging in queue) behind this one, but there's been a ton of things happening of late, and I've been hermitting, so...right. Time to get to it.

First up: Mr. Ciaran Laval noticed that LL changed their land bot allowances, from "allowed" to "not". As he points out, five years ago this would have been both relevant and helpful, but as things stand now...what, exactly, is the point? Unless--as he also points out--the Lab's planning to also reorganize tier in some fashion.

Sort of in the same vein--that of unsettling changes, at least--there was a thread on SL Universe querying if the Lab had a policy on requesting tax information. Which wouldn't be that big a deal, save for the way they handled it--or rather, aggressively and ridiculously mishandled it. First was the utter lack of communication, followed by wrong information given out by Lab employees who apparently weren't informed of the correct procedures, and--to my mind most significant--an utter refusal to change their policies when illegally employed.

Now, the lack of contact we are unfortunately accustomed to, along with the spreading of misinformation by people who should have better accesses to correct info than those not in the rank and file. But what started out as a reasonable conversation about terminology and correct interpretation began to slowly go south. The first hints of trouble were seen in Malkavyn Eldritch's post of January 18th:
First sale of the year (over 600.00 under 20,000.00) we now have received the support ticket and it is our first. (We wondered why the deposit hadn't processed in over a week)

[...] LL has failed (as usual) to provide relevant information to the residents in a timely manner. This shouldn't be a shock to anyone.
It really shouldn't, and that might have been the end of it, just an unfortunate delay, but...Kat Fetisov was next, on the 20th:
I got one of these the other day when I tried to cash out - for the record I'm nowhere near 200 withdrawals or $20,000 a year.
Then Charli a day later:
I have received the email as well. Who is Tommy Linden really? This is a matter of real life information and to be requesting such information without even providing their real name is just ridiculous.
Kat Fetisov received resolution...sort of...maybe?...on the same day:
I've had a reply from the Lab about this. It's left me a little puzzled.

They said that I don't need an ITIN or an EIN, just my UK National Insurance number (that's the UK's tax reference code for an individual; the equivalent of a US SSN). This is good news because it makes everything nice and simple but it leaves me puzzled because every other US based business platform (yeah, please forgive the pretentiousness of that term - you know what I mean; Amazon direct publishing, all the other e-book publishers, stock image sites etc) that asks users to file a W8 variant require an ITIN or EIN or they'll withhold US taxes from your payouts.

I hope that LL are in proper compliance because what seemed a big problem earlier today has now vanished. I can't help but feel that acquiring an EIN hasn't been a wasted effort since I can't know how things will change in future. The IRS is coming down harder and harder on this kind of commerce, so having an EIN in reserve gives me some reassurance I'll be able to deal with any stricter requirements that may come along later.
And then things got really worrying on the 24th. This was Desmond Shang, chiming in with his responses from the Lab:
I've made more than pocket change with my SL estate, and as such, I've always routed it through my S Corporation.

Why? Because you can't have, say, greater than 50,000 a year come into your personal bank account without paying appropriate taxes. I put in work to build my SL business, and that means wage taxes. Which I have paid. Just try telling the IRS that you had money rain out of the sky for no reason and see what happens ~ that's most certainly a bad, bad idea.

So I get a W9 request thursday. It's the sort of thing I get all the time in the course of other business, before SL even accepted residents. Except they doctored up the form horribly, and locked it on Individual / Sole Proprietor, and SSN through this weird electronic form overlay. I use an S Corporation with an EIN.

No big deal except they say if I don't fill out THAT form, locked to the wrong tax information fields ~ my account goes on hold in 30 days.
Let me restate some things from this, because I feel they're vaguely important.
  • For the purposes of estate management, Des has filed as an S corporation.
  • As he is an employee of this corporation (he's also the owner, which is another reason to incorporate; it makes things very neat and structured for purposes of taxation and filing), he pays himself wages from this estate-based income.
  • As such, it's fairly standard to fill out incorporated deduction forms (which he's done, both as employee and owner), as well as standard for companies and incorporated entities to interact with him as another incorporated entity.
  • Linden Lab did not do this. In fact, they doctored the form before sending it to restrict his ability to fill it out properly; they insisted that he fill it out as a private citizen, not an incorporated entity (or even employee of same).
  • Legally, Des cannot fill out this form.
  • If Des does not fill out this form, his account goes on hold, and they withhold wages until he properly fills it out--which, again, he cannot do as provided by the Lab.
This is insane. Why would any company mess with their paying clients this way? And "Because they're the Lab" is no longer a sufficient answer.

And let's not forget the next bit of Des' section of the thread:
I'm very upset with:

1) the incompetency of trying to force me to fill out a W9 incorrectly,

2) the fact I can't get anyone on the phone for something that should be a 5 minute thing

3) the fact that they are threatening to put my account on hold over it.
Yeah. Let me restate that bit, too, because it's important: A major estate owner, paying operational capital directly to Linden Lab, cannot get anyone on the phone to answer him. And if they're doing it to Des, they're doing it to everyone else. So forget regular users of SL trying to get information--when the people essentially providing working capital to the company can't get answers, we're in very deep. Drowning, not waving time.

While Des (and presumably other businesses and estate owners) were trying to figure out what waqs going on, on the 29th Karlin James developed an all-new, easily resolved problem:
I started to process my credit on January 13th and asked for USD1200 to be sent to my PayPal account. This is only the 3rd time I have withdrawn money from SL in 4 years. After 6 business days had passed I gave billing a call and asked if there were any delays in making payments. I was told that I would be paid that day as Wednesdays were when LL do their mass pay outs.

Well it didn't arrive in my account that day or the day after. But I did receive a case number and a request to fill out a form. It was the W8 for me because I am from the UK. I did that immediately and sent a photo of my passport and of my bank statement showing my address. That was a week ago.

[...] Just to add to that, I called a couple more times this week to ask to speak to a supervisor. I called during LL office hours but both times I was told there was no supervisor available and then got this recorded message "This call has ended, please hang up".

Passages bolded for emphasis above; and because James hadn't reached either internally stated limit, it's wholly unknown why the Lab decided to dick them around like this.

So now we're near the end of the month. New program, or least the Lab's new compliance with a program which may have gone into play (at least in the US) in 2010; still not sure on that score. Bumpy couple of weeks, but everything worked out, right? Well...

Here's eku Zhong on the 29th:
I cash out pretty regularly (monthly).. last week when cashout should have gone through I got the W8-BEN form and filled in and sent in photo ID last Friday.
Still waiting.. ticket is still IN PROGRESS.
Evil String on the 29th:
I got my ticket on friday. Everything filled up in less than 1 hour ( I had everything prepared), documentation uploaded. Still nothing.
Desmond Shang, same day:
Still waiting here; they have enough info to ID me seven ways to Sunday by now. I don't care if they are understaffed on the effort. Staff up. It's not like they couldn't see this coming for at least a decade in advance.
Now, very late on the 29th, both Zhong and String had their payment issues resolved; Charli and Nan still hadn't been contacted; Min Barzane, on the 31st, meanwhile, still hadn't heard anything:
Monday 20th requested cashout to paypall...friday 24th got suport request for aditional info ,tax stuff(ID,online form,the works)and normaly they stopped my cashout ... filled and sent ewerything inside 1 hr...today is 31st and still waiting for LL to move their lazy asses and let my money go!
And a few hours after both Des and Mm. Barzane posted that, they were mysteriously resolved. Someone reading along at the Lab?

And on February 4th, Eboni Khan added two more cents to the discussion:
My 1099-K arrived today from Linden Research. Not one single USD number on it matches my Paypal 1099-K. Hello double reporting!
Which I find highly suspicious on the part of the Lab. Shouldn't the numbers match? And there are still folks waiting for funds to be received, and all of this right at the turn of the month, when many of us are also asked to pay rent. The hell, Linden Lab. The friggin' hell, what is going on?

And does it have anything to do with Rod Humble leaving the Lab?

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