Paying Taxes on Two Homes

Homebuilders like Ryland Group (RYL), KB Home (KBH), and Beazer Homes (BZH) acquire their fortunes from homeowners, especially retirees, wanting to buy second homes, many times in a different state. But when it comes to taxes, where you live is very important. People who live where there’s no state income tax, such as Florida and Texas, should avoid paying income tax in other states. The one thing you would want to do is make sure you are not paying taxes twice on the same income.

Taxes and residency

There are two ways a state can require you to pay income taxes. The first is if you are a resident, and your income is earned from resources within the state. And the second is if you earn income within the state even if you’re not a resident of that state.

For example, let’s say you live in Huntsville and do your business throughout North Alabama. To Alabama you are a resident because you live there, and it has the right to tax all of your income. Nevertheless, if you earn 30% of your income from doing business in Tennessee, then that state can impose an income tax on that 30%, even if you are not a resident of Tennessee.

When dealing with multiple states and their income tax systems it can be very difficult. However, things can get worse if you live in two different states during various times of the year (as owners of multiple homes usually do).

Two classifications of ‘resident’

The problem that taxpayers face when residing in two different states is that the policy governing whether a state will consider someone a resident isn’t consistent from state-to-state. Because of that you have to examine the tax laws of both states to find the one that will claim you as a resident, whereby enforcing tax on your entire income.

Certain states have strict guidelines on filers they consider residents. For example, New York deals with many people who spend a lot of time in New York, yet they still continue to keep their homes in tax-free Florida. For those who have been avoiding paying state income taxes, there’s no more free ride. New York has now decided to tax anyone who has a permanent home in the state, have a tax residence, and spends at least 30 days there.

To find out if taxpayers have a New York tax residence or not, the state takes several things into consideration, like where they work, if they have property in another state, where they get medical care, where they vote, where their vehicles are registered, and where their family lives.

Let’s take California for example, which must deal with taxpayers traveling to and from Nevada and Washington, both tax-free states. Nevertheless, California has specific set of laws that limit the state tax department’s ability to treat taxpayers as residents even if they own a house, have bank accounts, or belong to social clubs within the state.

A break on double taxes

Even if you have to file more than one tax return, you won’t have to be bothered with double taxes unless you live in multiple states. In most states, residents are allowed to claim credits for income taxes they had to pay other states. So in the case of the Huntsville resident, Alabama would give them a break by permitting them to claim a credit for any taxes they had to pay on their income from Tennessee.

Most retirees’ income, like dividends, and other regular investment income, is viewed as earned income in the state in which they keep their primary tax address.

It would not be easy to come up with an alternative system because the physical location of stocks, bonds, and other securities is hard to describe. However, irregardless of your residence, you may have to treat other types of income, like rental income on real property or capital gains from the sale of real property, as income from the state where the real property is located.

If you can abide by the rules of the tax-residency, you can save yourself some money. If not, even though the state tax credit can decrease taxes in multiple states, you may end up paying a higher tax rate than you have to.

Even though state tax rates are lower than the federal rates, you still want to minimize them especially if you’re a retiree. Finally, if you live in different states during the year, it’s important that you are aware of the state’s tax rules that apply to you so that you will not be caught unawares.

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