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Defining 'Domicile'

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 16 May 2017 19:54

Question: Can you please explain "domicile"? I plan to move from one state to another, and want to make sure I don't have to pay any tax in the state from which I moved? Harry.

Answer: The dictionary definition is easy: "a person's fixed, permanent and principal home for legal purposes". But interpreting this is not at all easy.

You can have numerous residences, but only one domicile. Many people live in the North during the summer and go South in the winter. (The southerners call them "snowbirds"). They own two or more houses (residences), but where is their domicile?

State taxing officials like to find domicile, since then the homeowner will have to pay tax in that state. So even if I own real estate in New York -- where I would have to pay income tax -- my preference is to claim my domicile in Florida or Texas, where there is no such income tax requirement. (Other states with no requirement are Alaska, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming).

How do I prove my domicile? There are many ways, but the best evidence: show where you vote, where your driver's license is, where you pay your utilities and what address you use when you file your federal income tax return.

A novel approach, recently approved by the New York Tax Appeal court, involves your dog. Mr. Blatt moved from New York to Texas to get a new job. He had an apartment in New York, which he kept even after the move. The New York taxing authority claimed he lived in their state for more than 183 days per year, and thus had to pay a sizable amount of state tax.

On appeal, Mr. Blatt presented a lot of evidence and documents to show that his intent ws to relocate to Texas. The Court Judge issued this comment, and held that Mr. Blatt did not have to pay the New York tax. Mr. Blatt "took the final step in his relocation to Dallas by moving his dog there. Petitioner testified to the difficulty surrounding the decision to move his large, senior dog to Dallas due to her size and advanced age, coupled with the extreme heat and

humidity of Dallas.

Petitioner waited until the timing was appropriate. In reviewing the factors of a change in domicile, historically, the move of items near and dear tend to demonstrate a person's intention. As borne out by the evidence in this case, petitioner's dog was his near and dear item which reflected his ultimate change in domicile to Dallas."

So, Harry, keep that in mind when you move. A dog might just be the answer; not sure about your pet goldfish, however.

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Benny L. Kass

Author of the weekly Housing Counsel column with The Washington Post for nearly 30 years, Benny Kass is the senior partner with the Washington, DC law firm of Kass, Mitek & Kass, PLLC and a specialist in such real estate legal areas as commercial and residential financing, closings, foreclosures and workouts.

Mr. Kass is a Charter Member of the College of Community Association Attorneys, and has written extensively about community association issues. In addition, he is a life member of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. In this capacity, he has been involved in the development of almost all of the Commission’s real estate laws, including the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act which has been adopted in many states.

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