Kickstarter Lesson #180: How to Register Your Business in the US from Anywhere in the World

17 March 2016 | 55 Comments

[UPDATE: To date I haven’t heard of anyone successfully using the method described in the following article. Stripe Atlas doesn’t provide you with a US address or SSN, both of which Kickstarter requires for US creators.]

I’ve gotten a number of requests lately from non-US creators asking me to write about IF they should try to run a Kickstarter campaign in US dollars and HOW they can register their company in the US to allow them to do that.

The first question I’ve already answered in KS Lesson #65. The main reason is that projects in USD attract quite a few more backers in the US than non-USD projects, which non-US backers are largely ambivalent to the native currency of a project.

But until recently, I didn’t have an answer for the second question. I know how we registered Stonemaier LLC in Missouri, but I’m a US citizen–it was easy. I’ve registered my company in Canada, which was also easy, but registering it elsewhere has presented huge hurdles. I assumed the same was the case for non-US citizens trying to register in the US.

Then this happened.

Stripe, the company Kickstarter uses to process payments, has started a new service called Stripe Atlas. As the article states, “for $500, Stripe will take care of all of the paperwork needed to incorporate in Delaware, register with the IRS, and establish a U.S. bank account.”

Woah. That’s huge. Especially for non-US creators.

It means any creator anywhere in the world can run a Kickstarter campaign in USD. The only catch is that the service is currently in beta, so Stripe is only accepting a limited number of applicants.

The good news is that as soon as you submit your application (it’s short), you can start building your profile. It may ask you for the last 4 digits of your social security number, which you won’t have–instead, just enter 0000.

The Stripe Atlas FAQ says that the application process is quite fast: “In most cases, incorporation and setting up a business bank account occurs within a week of submitting signed documents. You’ll have your Tax ID Number within two weeks.”

You’ll end up receiving the following:

  • an account at Silicon Valley Bank
  • a tax ID number
  • incorporation as a U.S. business entity in Delaware (C-corp)
  • a Stripe account

The service is even helpful for creators in the US, as Delaware is seen as the ideal place to incorporate. That’s because it offers the rare intersection of the following:

  • companies can issue stock to employees
  • makes it easy to raise money from global investors
  • offers clear corporate rules and case law thanks to its unique Court of Chancery

Overall, I think this has the potential to be fantastic service for Kickstarter creators. I was delighted for my fellow creators when I heard about it, so I wanted to share it with you! I’d love to hear in the comments from someone who has applied to and been accepted for a Stripe Atlas account.

UPDATE: I just learned about another service that requires a lower buy-in; it’s more like a US company will act as your Kickstarter proxy.

55 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #180: How to Register Your Business in the US from Anywhere in the World

  1. Don’t you still have to have a representative SSN for KS? You can’t just use the company’s Tax ID. You’d still need a person in the US to take the potential liability for your project.

    1. I’m very interested! Not for me, of course, but I have friends abroad whom this would help a lot. I’m curious about the SSN requirement too.

  2. Hi, I recently found out about your blog and I gotta say it’s pretty insightful. I’m an Italian living in Italy at the moment and this program could really be of help. I just regret I didn’t move faster, because until June I was living in LA

  3. According to Kickstarter’s guidelines, you need the following to register as a creator:

    —You are 18 years of age or older.*
    —You are a permanent resident of one of the above listed eligible countries.
    —You are creating a project in your own name, or on behalf of a registered legal entity with which you are affiliated.
    —You have an address, bank account, and government-issued ID based in the country that you’re creating a project in.
    —If running your project as an individual, the linked bank account must belong to the person who verified their identity for your project.
    —You have a major credit or debit card.

    Stripe Atlas covers all of those requirements.

      1. Yes, that’s where you can enter either an SSN or an EIN. Either count as a government-issued ID.

        That said, these are great questions, Adam, and I’d love for someone to try to use Stripe Atlas and then sign up for a Kickstarter account to verify this.

        1. I got inundated with folks asking me about this so I’m also really curious. I’d love to have an avenue to recommend to folks that was legit and above board, especially the bank account piece.

          I didn’t realize you could use your EIN on KS, I was told that it required an actual person. Thanks for clarifying!

          1. I already registered an LLC in the USA as a non resident before knowing Atlas (there’s a lot of company that do this service), but KS keep asking me to insert an SSN.
            I tried using the EIN, but they don’t allow me to use it.
            I even asked to their support, and they specifically said no SSN = no US based campaign.

            I’ll directly ask to Atlas to see if they have any way to go around this corner.

            If you know of someone who succesfully did this (after the quite recent worldwide spread of KS, before it it was somehow, quite hardly possible) please let us know!

            I’d love to hear from someone with direct experience!

  4. It sounds really interesting Jamey! But as a creator from the EU, using a US enterprise… what happens after the project? You should pay taxes and all that stuff so you should hire an accountant there to avoid mistakes, and then, you should know how to move money from USA to EU.

    So I think that it’s the solution we needed some years ago (we couldn’t create a project outside the USA) but now it’s easier to register our project on our real country, even if we can’t show the rewards in USD. It’s easier on the legal side.

  5. Alberto: That’s true, it’s always been much easier for you to register in your home country, so you have to decide if losing a lot of backers in the US because of the way the currency is presented is worth the risk.

    As for taxes and accounting, you are correct that you’ll have to pay US income taxes and Delaware franchise taxes. But again, you’ll have to do regardless of your country. I understand that it’s a little harder to find accountants in a foreign country, but I suggest a great one on my accounting KS lesson (and there are many more).

  6. That said, I can see now that they offer legal guidance too :P Some creators here are paying a middle man in the USA to show their projects in USD so great news for a lot of creators!

  7. I don’t understand why KS don’t just let creators use the currency they want. It’s just not true that if you are in the EU you can’t sell your products in dollars. If it is because the exchange rate risk, it can be solved easily hedging the risk.

  8. Interesting stuff! I’d love to hear if this route gets approved by KS.

    FYI, the eligibility requirements I see on KS (on a new project’s “account” page) is a bit different from what you’ve quoted above. Specifically:

    “To be eligible to start a Kickstarter project as a creator in United States, you need to meet the following requirements:

    You are 18 years of age or older.
    You are a permanent resident of United States.
    You are creating a project in your own name, or on behalf of a registered legal entity with which you are affiliated.
    You have a U.S. bank account, address, and U.S. government-issued ID, all issued by the country you’re starting a project under.
    If running your project as an individual, the linked bank account must belong to the person who verified their identity for your project.
    You have a major credit or debit card.”

    The 2nd and 4th points sound like issues if KS chooses to enforce that wording. Where did you get those quoted guidelines from?

  9. This post may lead the unwary foreigner into a quagmire of expensive legal and tax issues that may not be necessary to step into, the degree of which depends upon the country and what treaties exist between the US and the non US country. First, the rule requires merely “You have an address, bank account, and government-issued ID based in the country that you’re creating a project in.” If your project is not in the US, there appears to be no need to have a US presence whatsoever. Just take the dollars and covert them into your local currency. Secondly, you not registering your company in the US. You are organizing a separate company in the US. Transferring funds from the US company to the foreign company has tax and legal ramifications, even if the US corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of your home country company. There is no reason, of which I am aware, you cannot qualify your foreign corporation to do business in a State in the US, and open a U.S. bank account in the name of the foreign company, instead, if it is even necessary to have a U.S. bank account to accept funds from a Kickstarter Campaign. There will still be legal filings ramifications, but not as many tax ramifications. I can guarantee you that transfers of monies from one corporation to another will have more tax and legal ramifications (filings, taxes, fees, etc.) than would be the case if you just qualify your foreign corporation to do business in one of the 50 US States, apply for a US Tax ID#, open the US account and file a US tax return for the year of your campaign. If your home country bank has a US branch, they will probably be happy to provide the necessary guidance; they want your deposits whether or not they are in the US branch or your home country branch! If you follow the above advice, then $500 is just the beginning of the expenses you will incur if you create a Delaware corporation. At a minimum, you will need the hire two accountants, a US accountant to complete and file a US corporate tax return, and an accountant in your home country, together to figure out what to pay to whom in taxes. Does Strip include the accountants’ fees in the $500 fee? Corporations are for perpetual existence, not a transitory purpose. Does the $500 include the costs of closing the U.S. corporation, so once the campaign is over and the money is transferred (and no longer required to be withheld in part for tax purposes in the US), you do not have to continue to file corporate tax returns (and minimum taxes) year after year? I think you are better off clarifying with Kickstarter what is really necessary to accept USD, and then finding a local bank that has a US branch, if that is necessary . I suspect the above is scam.

  10. So I am in the process of trying to create a US based project to help resolve the issue of having to convert everything from USD, which is the currency used for most quotes, to Canadian dollars (in my case). When completing the Account page of the project, it appears to require both a tax id and a SSN, and as eluded in an earlier comment, it does indicate the need to be a permanent resident of the US. Does anyone have any experience with the apparent requirement of needing a SSN?

      1. Thanks for getting back to me Jamey. When I registered my LLC I also applied for an EIN, but now I’m wondering if this not the “tax ID” you are referring to. Also, I haven’t tried just using the EIN as I don’t have a bank account setup quite yet. I will follow up again once I have a few more details in place.

          1. So the saga continues. I tried using Capital One 360 but they won’t open accounts without a “real” SSN – my EIN wasn’t good enough. A couple of other phone calls, and it seems that most banks require in person applications for new accounts – especially business ones. I have opened a US funds account at my local CIBC, but the Kickstarter project page is giving me grief over the routing number. I’m wondering if it is due to the Canadian bank. I will post another update once I have one – I may see if Stripe will do part of the service and create my bank account for me.

        1. Hi Raymond, did stripe work out for you? We’re in the process of Kickstarter gearing up from a uk base. Does the ein work on the page?
          Early advice appreciated as we don’t want to incorporate in the us , or pay stripe, until it’s clear Kickstarter will accept the ein? Thanks Raymond

          1. Hi Mark – Thanks for reaching out. I’ve been planning on doing an update on this for a while now, but never got around to it. I did finally find a way to get a bank account based out of the US though I’m not in the US through TD, but Kickstarter semi-recently changed the process so that you now require a person who lives in the US and has a SSN to be “responsible” for the campaign. This person’s name needs to be on the account you use as well. So unless you know a US citizen that you trust enough to open a bank account with them, you are out of luck.

            I was a little disappointed, but that was my experience. I did finally hear back from Stripe Atlas but passed as I already had the bank account and LLC, which also ended up not mattering as indicated above.

            Good luck with your capaign!

  11. Hi all

    I am from Japan. Our company does not have any branch in USA.
    However. we are curious about KS. The reason why KS has a big market.
    I heard that some Japanese company had successfully had fund raising even if they did not have any branch in USA, either.

    To start project, I am thinking as follows.

    We will hire an agent who has US resident. We will use oDesk in this case.
    However, he/she shall be hired for KS project only.
    Agent’s role is follows.
    /Register the company
    /Company’s address and company telephone shall be used in the address of the agent
    /Open the bank account
    /Obtain tax code
    /Others if any
    /Debit card or credit card for now, we have it in Japan, though, we must clarify we have to
    take a procedure or not

    I am concerned about how long will take for the agent to complete the said procedure.
    /Project transaction, communicating with Japan head quarter,

    The said matters are tentatively. I want share the ideas with you.
    If you have advice and question, please do not hesitate to share the idea.

    1. Omaruko: Your plan requires a LOT of trust in the US agent. There’s really nothing stopping them from emptying the bank account when the Kickstarter ends. I wouldn’t recommend risking that. Have you looked into the Stripe Atlas system I wrote about on this post?

      1. Hi Jamney

        I went over how Striple Atlas is like based on information of internet.
        I have questions below.

        1. How long will it take for us to complete the procedure of incorporation in US after registering for Striple Atlas?
        2. Do we have to use the accelerator such as East Ventures? If so, which kinds of cases are
        required? I think no necessarily unless we need capital. I am afraid consultant fee is quite
        high.
        3. Can we decide the legal firm and accounting firm by ouself? Because as far as I know
        the consultant fee of such as PW is quite high?
        4. Which kinds of problems may happen about the legal and accounting matters?

        I will be very grateful if you answer me the said questions.

        Looking forward to having your reply at your earliest convenience.

        Thank you in advance.

        1. Omaruko: Those are great questions! I don’t work for Stripe Atlas, nor do I use it, so I think it’s best if you contact them directly with these questions so you get the most accurate answers.

  12. Is it possible to apply for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number instead of SSN for non-US citizens to run project on Kickstarter?

  13. It has been my experience that even when you run the Kickstarter as a company they still want one individual person to go through the verification process and that person needs to have US based ID, address, and SSN. That said I didn’t go through the process of getting and ITIN because when I asked Kickstarter about it they gave me the US based ID, address, and SSN line. Are you somewhere that you can’t run a Kickstarter in your local currency? I ask because I was able to open a US based bank account and plan on transferring the Kickstarter money into that account so I can pay for things in USD as much as possible. It really is too bad though because I still need to run my campaign in CAD.

        1. Hi Raymond,

          So there is not way someone abroad can run a US-based KS? Did you get around the SSN issue?

          Thanks a lot for any update on this and all the shared info.

          Best,

          Jose

      1. We did open a US entity for our first ks in Delaware and we moved the money from the campaign to our European accounts. At the time we needed a SSN and an actual person BUT that person did not need to own the account, so it was possible to have someone offer the ssn, give all their accompanying data and then exchange account and address for the KS to our company.
        But US banks are extremely skittish sending out larger sums of money due to suspicion of tax fraud or money laundering. We made 500k USD at the time and had to fly over with proof of our company (they actually quizzed us on employees etc), we paid taxes at our home and the whole thing including tax filing and accountants came to roughly 2500 USD in cost.
        But essentially we cheated the system and legally our ssn provider could have been subject to being sued in the US if we fucked up the ks delivery, so that is an immense risk you put on that person.

  14. Anything new on this. This is a big deal for me as i’m running a campaign from Australia and don’t want people seeing everything in AUS, as it will appear much more expensive.

  15. I will try and sum up my experience in this with the shadowrun Online video game project – it is alittle dated, we did this before stripe existed, but ended up with the same constellation of an EIN, account and legal entity. Which is NOT sufficient for the KS! I can also provide a blog post about that, if you want Jamey

  16. Late reply, but thank goodness. The Bicycle Asylum Playing Card KS was a foreign artist who met a US citizen online to run the KS. The US citizen took the money and ran.

  17. Hi Jamey! Your blogs have been super helpful as we work through our first attempts to publish a game. So first off — THANK YOU.

    I have a KS campaign now and used my SSN to set it up.

    Now that it’s funded and I know this will happen, I would love to take the steps to protect everything and create something going forward for this and further projects.

    1. Would Stripe Atlas still be recommended for me, someone located in Illinois, over going through more traditional channels?

    2. Is it too late as I’ve already used my social and setup a separate bank account on my own locally?

    1. Thanks for sharing your question! While I’m not sure I can recommend Stripe Atlas either way (I haven’t used it), you can use it, even as a US company. My one hesitation is that it’ll set up a C-corp in Delaware for you, but a C-corp probably isn’t the best fit for a small startup (I’d recommend an S-corp, LLC partnership, or even a sole proprietorship if it’s just you).

      As for the timing of the setup, it’s not too late.

  18. Just a quick note on strawberry studios. I tried to get in touch with them regarding their kickstarter service. They asked me to provide more information on my project, which I provided. Regrettably, that was the end of it, since they did not reply any more. I can only guess why but even if my project was not sufficiently attractive to them, I would have appreciated /expected an answer telling me that this was the case…

  19. I live in Poland which is not a country supported by Kickstarter whatsoever. Can I use Stripe to get permission to use Kickstarter while staying in my country? If so, how does remote tax management look like (is it even possible)? If the whole thing doesn’t work for me, what can I do to be allowed to use Kickstarter in my position without leaving my country?

  20. But it seems you still need a friend from US to actually launch the project on Kickstarter, even if on behalf of a compny you created via Stripe Atlas, correct?
    “ Project creation is currently available to individuals in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, and Japan who meet the requirements below.”
    https://www.kickstarter.com/help/faq/creator+questions#faq_41823
    What then, he/she gives you their login/password or turn you into an admin and you take control of the Kickstarter page?
    Because if they remain an admin they mgiht be able to modify the bank account or get hold of the money some other way.

    1. You need an actual person that will be required to have a social security number in the US. You can just use that person to create you KS and use your own bank account and credit cards. However that person remains legally responsible for the KS should you not fulfill as far as I know.

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