In today’s globalised economy, investors often face the complex issue of withholding tax on dividends. Many investors are unaware that they might have unclaimed excess withholding taxes, which could be a significant amount of money. This article will guide you through the steps to check if you have unclaimed excess withholding taxes and how to reclaim them.

Understanding Withholding Tax

Withholding tax (WHT) is a tax deducted at source on dividends paid to non-resident investors. Different countries have different WHT rates, which can range from 0% to 35% or more. This tax is typically withheld by the company distributing the dividends before the payment reaches the investor. While WHT ensures tax compliance and collection, it can sometimes lead to overpayment, especially when tax treaties between countries reduce the applicable WHT rate.

Why You Might Have Unclaimed Excess Withholding Taxes

Excess withholding taxes occur when the amount of tax withheld is greater than what is required under applicable tax treaties or domestic tax laws. Several factors can contribute to this, one of them being lack of awareness, as many investors are unaware of the tax treaties that can reduce their WHT rates. Another factor could be administrative errors. Mistakes in the calculation and application of WHT by the dividend-paying company can lead to overpaid taxes. Finally inadequate documentation can lead to failure to prove one’s entitled benefit to reduced tax rates under tax treaties.

Steps to Check for Unclaimed Excess Withholding Taxes

Start by reviewing your dividend income statements. These statements provide detailed information about the dividends you received, including the amount of WHT deducted. Ensure that you have all the necessary documents from your brokerage or the companies in which you hold shares.

Tax treaties between countries often reduce the WHT rate on dividends. For example, a treaty between the United States and France may reduce the WHT rate from 30% to 15%. Research the tax treaties between your country of residence and the countries where you have investments. This information is typically available on the websites of tax authorities or international organisations.

Once you understand the applicable tax treaties, calculate the correct WHT rate that should have been applied to your dividends. Compare this rate with the actual rate applied, as shown on your dividend income statements.

If the actual WHT rate applied is higher than the correct rate under the tax treaty, you have overpaid withholding taxes. Document these discrepancies meticulously, as you will need this information to file a claim for a refund.

Filing a claim for a refund involves submitting the necessary documents to the tax authorities in the country where the tax was withheld. This process can vary significantly between countries, so it is essential to understand the specific requirements and procedures. In some cases, you may need to use forms provided by the tax authority, while in others, a formal letter may suffice. Once you have submitted your claim, monitor its progress. Tax authorities can take several weeks to several months to process refund claims. Stay in contact with the relevant tax office and provide any additional information they may request.

Common Challenges in Reclaiming Excess Withholding Taxes

Reclaiming excess withholding taxes can be a complex and time-consuming process. Common challenges include bureaucratic hurdles, where different countries have varying procedures, forms, and documentation requirements, making the process cumbersome. Another challenge is language barriers. Communication with foreign tax authorities may require translations and an understanding of local tax terminology. In addition, delayed responses can also be a factor. Tax authorities may take a long time to process claims, requiring persistent follow-ups.

Seeking Professional Assistance

Given the complexities involved in reclaiming excess withholding taxes, many investors opt to seek professional assistance. Tax recovery specialists, such as those at Global Tax Recovery, have the expertise and experience to navigate the process efficiently. These professionals can help you gather the necessary documentation, submit accurate claims, and follow up with tax authorities to ensure timely refunds.

The Importance of Timely Action

It is crucial to act promptly when reclaiming excess withholding taxes. Many countries have strict deadlines for filing claims, often within two to four years from the date of the dividend payment. Missing these deadlines can result in the forfeiture of your right to a refund.

Other Considerations

To ensure timely receipt of your refund after submitting a claim for excess withholding taxes, it is important to understand the typical timeframe and potential costs involved. Generally, tax authorities may take several weeks to several months to process your claim. Monitoring progress is crucial, and you can often track your claim through online portals or by directly contacting the relevant tax office. Be aware that professional tax recovery services are encouraged, but might charge fees, which could be a fixed amount or a percentage of the recovered taxes. If your claim is delayed or denied, promptly follow up with the tax authorities, providing any additional documentation or clarification they may require. At Global Tax Recovery, if we cannot recover your claim, you do not pay.


Unclaimed excess withholding taxes can represent a significant financial loss for investors. By understanding the intricacies of WHT, reviewing your dividend income statements, and taking the necessary steps to reclaim overpaid taxes, you can ensure that you recover the funds you are entitled to. For those who find the process daunting, professional assistance from tax recovery experts can simplify the process and maximise your chances of a successful refund. Stay informed, act promptly, and leverage available resources to reclaim your excess withholding taxes. For more information and professional assistance, visit Global Tax Recovery