Residence vs. Home of Record

In talking with military families about taxes and residences and drivers’ licenses, one little thing keeps coming up:  the misuse of the term home of record.  It probably isn’t a big thing in the greater scheme of life, but it certainly can make a simple conversation a lot more complicated if one person is using it correctly and one person is using it incorrectly.  It’s often confused with state of legal residence or domicile, but that’s a different thing and often what people are talking about when they say home of record.

A military service member’s home of record is the place from which they entered the military.  It is not necessarily “where they’re from.” For example,  If I am from Maryland, but went to college in Florida and entered the military in Florida, then Florida is my home of record.  Home of records don’t change unless your information was entered incorrectly, or you leave the military and then rejoin.  Homes of record are used for certain travel allowances, particularly when leaving military service.  Military spouses do not have a home of record.

A state of legal residence, or domicile, or legal domicile, is the place where the service member thinks of as home, the state where you intend to live after you leave the military.  Your state of legal residence may change throughout your life.  However, you can’t just pick a place, there are rules and steps that need to be taken.  In order to legally change your state of legal residence, you must:

  1. be physically present in the new state, AND
  2. you must intend to treat that location as your permanent home; AND
  3. you must intend to abandon your old state of legal residence.

Intent is one of the most misunderstood and difficult parts of legal residency or domicile.  While there are a number of steps that you can take to demonstrate your intent, it is the cumulative effect of these small things that adds up to the whole of determining legal residency or domicile.

Ways to show that you intend to make a state your legal residence include:

  • obtaining a driver’s license,
  • register your vehicle,
  • register to vote,
  • actually voting,
  • paying state tax,
  • reflecting that state in your will,
  • any other actions that could be construed as showing intent to remain a resident of a state.

Once a military member has taken the steps to establish a new domicile, he or she can change their pay withholding by using DD form 2058, State of Legal Residence Certificate.  Just naming a state on the form does not make you a legal resident of that state, it just means that you will be having the correct state taxes withheld.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act allows a military member to retain a state of legal residence or domicile even though military orders have caused them to move to another state.  However, that military member must be careful to not take any action that might give the impression that they have actually changed their domicile to the new state.  I see and hear three things that military members do all the time that make the question of domicile tricky:  changing their driver’s license, changing their vehicle registration, and claiming a homestead exemption on a property.  The last one is particularly important.  When you claim a homestead exemption on your house, you are declaring that you are a legal resident of that state.  If you are claiming or accepting the homestead exemption on a property in one state, but declaring your domicile in another state, you may have problems at some point in the future.

Military spouses have the same domicile requirements as active duty members, but their right to retain a previous domicile is limited.  In the past, a military spouse was required to change their domicile with each PCS move.  In 2009, the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act (MSRRA) became law, and it gives military spouses the right to retain their state of legal residence as long as it is the same state as their active duty spouse AND as long as the spouse is living with the active duty member as the direct result of military orders.  Unfortunately, MSRRA does not have any provisions to help military spouses obtain legal residency in the state where their active duty husband or wife is a resident.  As a result, military couples must hope for orders to the service member’s state of residency so that the two parties can match their domicile, or, if living in a state where the couple intends to reside, then both parties can change their domicile and then keep them together.

On one hand, this is really confusing, but it’s really actually quite simple if you break it down.  Questions, comments?  You know I love ’em!

 

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Mike Mullins

    Great article; so how can I find out if KS (wife’s HOR) considers her a Resident since we currently live in KS on my mil orders? I am a CA resident; can we live together in KS but be Residents of different states (her KS and me CA)?

    • Bethany

      Is your wife also in the military? If not, she does not have a HOR. It is certainly possible for you to be residents of different states.

  • KenLand

    Can someone retain their home of record instead of where they retire?

    • Bethany

      Are you asking if someone can remain a resident in their home of record after they retire if they retire somewhere else? If so, the answer is no. The ability to keep a residence in a state other than where you current live only applies to active duty and their spouses. (For example, military member has a home of record in TX and keeps their residency there. They retire after 20 years and move to CA. They cannot be resident’s of TX anymore. They are residents of CA.)

      • KenLand

        Beth thank you very much for the information. So, I guess it would behoove of us to look at income tax for retirees in the states we are interested in moving too. Have a good day :)

      • Marc

        Thank you for the information. How is this enforced? Where may I find this law? I have a few fellow retired friends residing in the state which is not their HOA- without any problems with filling HOA state tax (or not, since all have a state that doe not have state tax) and with home ownership.

        • Kate

          If your retired friends are truly claiming a state that is not their state of legal residence, then they may be liable when the state in which they actually reside figures out that they are not filing/paying taxes there.

          There is no individual law as the laws of each state govern their residency qualifications and the responsibilities of residents to pay taxes. The laws that exempt active duty folks from changing their residence are the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act. These two laws which provide relief from the obligation to change residency specifically apply only to active duty military members and their spouses.

  • Pamela Foster

    So can the military member change their HOR to be where they are going to retire?

    • Kate

      Ms. Foster, a home of record can only be changed in cases of errors, or a break in military service. Your home of record simply denotes the location from which you entered the military.

      If you can establish domicile, or legal residence, in the state where you plan to retire, that would be ideal and would fulfill the intent of domiciliary law. However, that might be difficult as you may not be stationed in the place where you plan to retire.

  • Bill Laux

    Think of your home of record as your military service birthplace. You have only one birthplace; you can never change it, no matter how many times you relocate. Same with your home of record — it’s just the place from which you entered service, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.

    • USFSPA Killer

      BUT kemosabe – unless you retire in your “military service birthplace”, you will automatically become a resident of the state in which your retire – many of the SCRA (formerly the S&SRA) protections get left behind and don’t follow you into retirement !

  • LB

    If my HOR is TX, we are stationed in VA and we bought a car in VA with VA plates. Say we PCS to FL, do we have to change our plates to FL or TX? I hope it is ok to ask this here.

    • Kate

      LB, where is your state of legal residence? To what state are you paying or not paying state income taxes? If the service member’s name is on the registration and title, you can (almost always) choose keep your Virginia tags or get Florida tags.

      However, you want to think about what you are trying to say with these actions. I encourage military members to be deliberate when making decisions about things that indicate their intent to be a resident of one state or another. If you are a Texas resident (not just that Texas is your home of record, but that you are legally domiciled there), then it would make sense to me that you would want to register your car in Texas.

      • guest

        In VA, you don’t have a choice but to register a car within 30 days of moving to the state, military or not. You face a fine if the county finds out. You are also forced to pay the car tax if your civilian spouse is on the title/registration. We had to re title the cars to solely my husbands name to avoid the vehicle tax on them (which would have been 4.5 k the first year we were there, imagine my damned stoke when I got that estimate).

        As such, since he’s not domiciled in TX, he’d probably be wiser to register them in FL to avoid potential confusion over the vehicle tax that VA has.

        • Kate

          guest, this is not accurate. Military servicemembers stationed in Virginia are entitled to maintain their vehicle registration in their state of legal residence, per the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act. This is referenced all across Virginia law and at innumerable websites, such as this Fairfax County government page (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dta/military_taxobs.htm ) where it says, “active duty military personnel may elect to register vehicles in accord with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003 (previously the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940), either in their state of legal residence or the host state in which they are currently serving pursuant to military orders,” or this Joint Base Langley-Eustis information fact sheet (http://www.jble.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-140701-106.pdf).

          NOTE: The SCRA *does not* permit you to maintain vehicle registrations in a state that is not your state of legal residence or physical location. Virginia does require that you change your vehicle registration if the state in which it is registered is not your state of legal residence.

          In addition, Virginia has chosen to interpret the provisions of the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act (MSRRA) very generously, and extend to military spouses the right to maintain vehicle registrations in state of legal residence. Not all states have interpreted the MSRRA this way, but it is a huge boon for military spouses stationed in Virginia. This change occurred in 2009.

          Though the MSRRA does not specifically apply to vehicle registrations, it has generally been interpreted to apply to personal property taxes. While the active duty member has always been exempt from personal property taxes under the SCRA, I believe that all states now also exempt military spouses, assuming they qualify for the protections of MSRRA (sharing the same legal residence as their active duty spouse.)

          We have been stationed in Virginia twice, and have legally maintained our vehicle registration in our state of legal residence both times. We do maintain our vehicle registrations solely in my husband’s name to eliminate any potential hassles at future duty stations.

          • guest

            The state may allow it but I can tell you 100% that the counties don’t practice it. We received SEVERAL letters about it once we moved in.

            Also, while MSRRA DOES allow you to maintain in a prior legal state of residence. If you WORK in the state, and earn income in the state, you are pretty much a legal resident of the state. I spent 2 years trying to fight and keep CO as my legal residence (lower taxes) and was pretty much told you are SOL since you earn income in the state of VA. I also earn income and own property, in CO but that didn’t matter.

          • Kate

            guest, it sounds like you have gotten some bad counsel along the way. We have had to “help” our local governments understand the SCRA and MSRRA on several occasions. In my experience, it is usually the areas that don’t have a lot of military experience that don’t understand what the law says.

            If your husband is a Colorado residence, there is no reason that you had to give up your residence there. The whole point of MSRRA was to prevent military spouses from having to change legal residences *for tax purposes.* The only caveat is that the spouse must have the same legal residence as the active duty member. There are thousands of military spouses earning income in Virginia and paying taxes to their state of legal residence.

            Now, if the domicilary intent is unclear, than Virginia certainly can have a case. There are all sorts of things that are considered in domiciliary intent. If you took a homestead exemption on a house in Virginia, registered to vote in Virginia, changed your driver’s license, etc., then one would have to assume that you intended for Virginia to be your domicile. There is never any single factor that makes that determination, but rather then overall picture created by many small factors.

          • Appreciative

            I think I am confused now. I was trying to look up the rules in MD and VA, and I came upon some info on military.com (http://www.military.com/money/pcs-dity-move/vehicle-registration-for-military-families.html) that says if a vehicle is co-owned and the owners are not both active duty military, you must register your car in VA and not in your state of legal residence (both of us maintain residency in IL). I clicked on the link and it leads me to the same info on the VA DMV website. So, if my husband and I have a car that is in both of our names, we will not be allowed to have it registered in IL once we get to VA?
            We’re moving OCONUS to MD then VA with one car purchased overseas (so there is no title yet, just a certificate of origin and paperwork proving we own it) and plans to purchase a second car when we get stateside. So, according to their DMV website, it sounds like we need to have both cars solely in my husband’s name (he’s the active duty member) if we want to register it in our state of residency and don’t want to have to change the plates again when we move into then out of VA? :-/
            Thank you for all of this info!!

          • Kate

            Unfortunately, it is always a good idea to keep cars in solely the active duty person’s name if you want to minimize any potential hassle with car registrations. This is directly contrary to the advice that things be co-registered to simplify matters in case of death. You have to figure out which one is more important to you, and act appropriately.

  • Overwhelmed

    Thank you for such thorough information!

    my spouse is active duty military. We have lived in Virginia for 15 years. I will attest our Virginia area has had a strong arm in the past with uninformed city offices and repeated threatening letters but have finally changed their ways in recent years to better recognize military situations to license plates etc

    However, I am confused about how to proceed in our situation. My spouse has always claimed another legal state of residence and I have worked in VA since 2000. I had changed my legal state to VA in 2000. We have bought and sold homes here (currently owning as well),I vote here, and have file married filing separately to VA ever since… However I have questions:
    1) Can I just change my claimed residency back to my spouses legal resident?

    2) if so, how will this change my VA filing ie, Can I backdate it to the MRSSA date as I have been informed?

    3) are you saying I cannot claim our VA homes tax exemptions if we both file legal residence in another state?
    4) the most difficult part of legal state of residence is maintaining status with that state– present for drivers license, requiring a in- state actual address…

    FYI the military has homesteaded us in VA because of our daughters EFMP status
    but we do not plan on retiring here.

    I’ll admit- I am more scared of breaking the law by now by attempting to make changes based off the new law of protectionfor military spouses by making changes now to my legal residence, my W2’s, my vote registration, etc because I truly have a difficult time finding accurate information regarding what I should do to comply with the law.

    I am getting ready to enter a new profession and have been told on my W2 to file exempt for this law for VA with my military status. How does a military spouse just change claim to another state in the middle of a year? I have been filing with VA but was told I could file to retrieve my VA taxes paid since 2006. If I was legally required to claim VA as my legal state before (to work) how is that possible?
    I have tried professional prep in past but have lost thousands
    Bottomline- claiming my spouse legal state of residence now requires so much it is overwhelming… Our house, my w2, when do I claim it started when we have been here since 2000, my voter registration, will VA IRS come after me? It’s just so much.

    • Kate

      Overwhelmed, it can be confusing. MSRRA has no provisions for military spouses to claim or reclaim their active duty partner’s state of legal residence. Therefore, thousands of military spouses are caught in a limbo situation where they must continue to claim the state in which they actually live because they can’t get synced with their active duty member.

      Even if you were able to fulfill the requirements to establish domicile in your husband’s state of legal residence, which would be no small feat itself, I think it is highly unlikely that Virginia is going to let you claim that you have changed your domicile. While I’ve not seen any actual case law regarding military spouses, I have read a lot of case law about domicile in general. In most situations, it is the losing state who protests on the grounds that the person has not, in fact, had an shift in their intent. Because you have been a Virginia resident for many years, and have not left the state, I don’t really see a valid way forward for you to claim that you have changed your domicile.

      I’m not sure the qualifications of the person who said that you could file to retroactively and get your state taxes back, but that seems pretty sketchy to me. It’s possible that you could try, and it would work. Of course, you’d then have to refile to claim that income in the state where you were allegedly residing.

      I’m pretty darn sure that the state taxation offices are so confused by this all that they are letting a lot of stuff slide. As a result, whether because of confusion or just wanting to save some money, it seems there are some military spouses who are getting away with not declaring their income anywhere. I suspect that as the law continues to be implemented that eventually the states will start talking to each other to ensure that all income is being claimed somewhere.

      I hope I’ve answered your questions!

      EDIT: Oops, forgot to address your homestead exemption question: I can’t actually find any resources that tell me about Virginia Homestead Exemptions. and I’m starting to think that they dont’ have one. Do you know? At least that would be one less thing to worry about!

  • Damaris

    So if we got orders to VA in May 2014 but our home of record is in NC (drivers licenses NC, vehicle registrations NC)….but we purchased a home in VA and I work in VA now, am I still exempt even though we purchased a house in VA?

    • Kate

      Damaris, solely purchasing a home does not change your domicile. However, if you accept any real estate tax reduction based upon your residence in the house, that may have an effect.

      Don’t forget that the MSRRA does not make you exempt from taxes. It simply means that you can file in North Carolina vs. filing in Virginia. You are still responsible to pay state taxes on your income.

  • E

    Hi Kate! I’m working on my own taxes…for the 1st time. Sheesh, is all I have 2 say! Anyways, I think I got it all squared except that I am a FL resident that’s stationed in OK & I own rental properties in GA & SC. TT is telling me that I need to file state returns in GA & SC bc of the houses…is that true? Of note, I’ve never been told I needed to do that before. Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated. Have a great day!

    • Kate

      Yes, you must file a tax return in each state where you own property.

      • Confused

        So, do I need to do that retroactive bc…as I mentioned above I’ve never done it before and I’ve owned one of the homes for quite a while.

  • Latasha

    I am a military spouse, my husband and I have the same residency in the state of FL but we are residing in Va on orders. (he is active duty, I am employed in VA)
    I filed exempt from Va state taxes but they are saying i should have to show proof of filing taxes in another state. My residency is FL and they do not have state taxes. What is my next step?

    • Kate

      Latasha, if your filing state is Florida, then they should be able to determine that Florida does not have a filing requirement. Are you claiming Virginia on your withholding documents?

      • jessica

        My husband doesn’t have to pay state either but he must still file. Maybe this is the case? If so, just file next year and it will be all good with no taxes owed (we did that last year)

  • Vaughn

    I am about to hit my 20 year mark in the active army. My family and I are stationed in Texas but have our hearts set on retiring in Alaska. What would be the best route to take in order to have the government relocate our household goods to Alaska. Friends have told me to change my HOR but from what I have read that seems to be false. What say you, thanks for your time.

    • Bethany

      Since you are retiring, you don’t need to worry about your HOR. You get a final move to a “Home of Selection” (HOS) which can be anywhere in the US. See JTR para 5068 or talk to your transportation office.

    • Guest contributor

      The “best route to take in order to have the government relocate our household goods to Alaska” would be to have the Army personal property HHG shipping office send a civilian moving service to pack and ship your HHG by tractor trailer via interstate highways to Alaska. Eh ?

  • EAY1980

    I am preparing to PCS with my active duty spouse this month. His home of record is in TX, where we presently live and were married. We are relocating to IL and are confused by the MSRRA details. I have accepted an offer for a job in Chicago and assumed I would be exempt from IL state taxes. We were hoping to purchase a new home once we relocated; does this mean that I would no longer be exempt from income tax withholdings from my employer? And if not, are we still ok to buy a home without changing our vehicle registrations, insurance, etch?

    • Kate

      EAY1980, where is your spouse’s legal residence? Is it Texas? Home of Record and legal residence are not related, and so they might be different.

      If you are currently living in Texas, have you taken the steps listed in the article to establish legal residency there?

      If you BOTH have Texas residency, you can continue to maintain that residency after you move to Illinois. Purchasing a home will not change that, but accepting homestead exemptions on the property tax on the home can/should impact your residency. If you buy a house, be sure that you are not accepting any property tax reductions based upon your status as in Illinois resident.

      It is always good to verify vehicle registration and driver’s license laws with each individual state. The active duty spouse is protected by the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act, but there is no federal legislation requiring states to permit military spouses to legally use their driver’s licenses in their home of residence. Most states do permit it, but a few are vague about the law and at least one (Ohio) specifically requires military spouses to obtain a local driver’s license if they are actually residing in the state.

    • Lucky

      Since you are non-military and you will be receiving income from IL sources you will not be exempt from taxes on that income. You will have to file non-resident Illinois Income Taxes and they will tax the income you received from your job in IL and any other income you received from Illinois sources.

      • Kate

        Lucky, this is not true if she is able to maintain her previous residency under the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act.

  • MLKGA

    Maybe someone here can answer this. It’s complicated. I am a U.S. Citizen, born in the US, but raised in Germany from 6 months to 16 years of age. When I returned to the US I lived on a military installation located in KY. I obtained a TN driver’s license due to the state being close to the installation. I have NEVER registered to vote or claimed a residence in any state. I have been moving with my husband to different states, but again, never claimed residency in those states. Now…I started working and was asked which state I claim for residence…I have no idea. Help! I wanted to claim FL since that is where my husband is from and his state of residency but I have never lived there. The Military relief act for spouses is confusing because I don’t know what my state of residence should be.

    • Bethany

      If your state of residence is not the same as your husband’s, then it is the state you are currently in.

    • Kate

      What Bethany said. It’s pretty simple. Either you established the same state of residence as your husband during a time when you lived there, or your state of residence is the place where you currently reside.

  • Guest

    I’m so confused. Our HOR is ND, but we are currently stationed in VA. We bought a house here, but have done nothing else to make this our state of residency. Our vehicles are both registered in ND, but they are insured through VA, since that is where are vehicles are. However, the ND DOT has informed me that vehicles registered in the state of ND need to be insured through the state of ND. How do I proceed with this?

    • Kate

      Let me start with a teensy thing that is actually important: HOR is not relevant here, and spouses don’t have them. (See the post above.) You are asking about residency quetions.

      Most insurance companies are capable of providing proof of insurance for multiple states. When we live in the US, we ask USAA to give us insurance cards for Florida and wherever we are living. Just ask!

      • Guest

        Thanks Kate. HOR does matter here, though, as I am also in the military. ☺️

        • Kate

          Even if you are in the military, you home of record is not relevant to the question asked. You are asking about residency questions, and active duty members are often legal residents of a state that is different from their home of record.

          Pretty much the only importance of Home of Record is for travel allowances when you ETS from the service. Everything else is based on your state of legal residence as demonstrated by the actions listed in the post.

          I hope that helps!

    • Guest contributor

      Your vehicle registration (“tags”) and insurance certificate/policy are best issued in the same state. You’ll need to either get ND insurance or get VA registration (“tags”).

  • Kate

    First, be sure that you are not accepting or claiming any homestead credits on your property taxes in Virginia. I’m not even sure if Virginia offers such a credit, but many states do and that is a common way to complicate your residency.

    If you are residents of different states, you will have to file (or not file, as the case may be) two different state income tax returns. Each state will have their own instructions for how to calculate your taxes when one spouse is a resident and the other spouse is not. If I remember correctly, Virginia has you declare all your income and then subtract the amount earned by the non-resident spouse. The directions are usually pretty good and if you have problems, your installation should have a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, or you can contact Military One Source for tax assistance.

  • MIMI

    My husband and I currently live in Maine were he is stationed we purchased a house here and now only after 2 yrs are told we are moving again. we put our home up for sale and now are confused with the state the contract from the realtor say the maine department of revenue for non residents will have to withhold a prepayment of capital gains tax unless a wavier has been obtained by the seller (me) so question is my realtor says we need to get maine drivers licenses but I have a vehicle registered and taged here but if I have lived in the house for 2 yrs and in the state for 3 yrs what else do we have to do to be considered a resident. I am so confused. Husband is Texas resident and I am VA

    • Kate

      Mimi, I am not familiar with Maine law, but it sounds like this is a pretty standard non-resident tax withholding for real estate transactions. In most states, just like with the federal government, if you earned a profit on the sale of a house, you may have to pay income tax on it.

      At the end of the year, you will need to file a non-resident income tax return with the State of Maine, and calculate any taxes due from the sale of the property. The amount withheld from the closing will be credited against the actual taxes due, and you may have a refund or owe additional taxes. (This is just like regular taxes.)

      With regard to where you are currently a resident, you can not be a resident of Virginia if your husband is a resident of Texas. Per the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act, you are only able to be a resident of Texas or a resident of Maine. If you have not lived in Texas and taken the steps to establish residency there, such as maintaining your driver’s license, vehicle registration, voting, etc. in Texas, then you are a resident of Maine. On one hand, this may help you with your tax question. On the other hand, the State of Maine is going to want to know why you have kept a driver’s license in Virginia and why you have not filed income taxes in Maine (if you had any income.) You’ve unwittingly painted yourself into a corner by having the various things that demonstrate your residence be split up between different states.

      How you want to proceed with this is up to you. You can let the withholding be taken you, and then file your taxes at the end of the year and see what happens. You can switch your stuff to Maine, but then you will have to switch it again as soon as you get to your new location. I am sure there are other options, but none are coming to mind at this time.

  • Scott

    While stationed overseas our oldest enlisted in the Military. The question has come up as to where his state of legal residence is. Can you help.

    • Kate

      That’s tricky, and I’m not sure I can provide you with a definitive answer. If he isn’t domiciled anywhere else, then the default is that he is domiciled where he is actually living and working. (That might be a little tough if he is still in training.)

      Where is he registered to vote? Has he voted? Does he hold a US driver’s license? What was the last state in which he resided, when, and under what circumstances? What is YOUR state of legal residence – is it a state that requires filing of income tax statements, and would he be listed as a dependent on those statements.

      Domicile, or state of legal residence, is based upon intent, as demonstrated by many small actions. If you, as his parent, were a resident of a state, and he obtained a driver’s license there, and registered to vote there, and did anything else (register a car, etc.) there, that would seem to me as good demonstration of intent.

      Besides intent, another important concept with domicile is whether any OTHER state can prove that he is actually a resident of their state. Generally speaking, states don’t say, “no, you’re not a resident,” (though they may make it difficult to take the steps that prove residency.) In most cases of dispute over domicile, the service member is claiming domicile in a state and a different state is saying, “No, you’ve taken enough steps that you’re actually OUR resident.”

      I’m not sure that is a huge amount of help, but it might help you look at the available evidence and figure out where it seems he is domiciled. If possible, I would take any possible actions to support that. Otherwise, he may choose to establish residency in the place where he is currently stationed.

  • Joe

    Hi Kate!

    I am single, grew up in Texas and graduated high school and college in Texas. I also joined the military in Texas during/after college (ROTC), and am now stationed in Illinois. My base is right by the border of Missouri, so I live in downtown St Louis, Missouri (and work in IL, and TX is my home of record and my state of residence). I still have a Texas Driver’s License under my parent’s address where I grew up.

    I am about to buy a car and would prefer to get Texas plates on it and have it registered in Texas. Do you know if I could fly to Texas, buy my car there, pay taxes on it there, register it there, and drive it to my apt I’m renting in STL and use it for the next 3-4 years of my assignment? It will be in MO for half the week and IL for the other half, as I keep it on base and take the train to and from work.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Kate

      Joe, there’s an excellent chance that you don’t even need to go to Texas. We just purchased a car in Maryland and registered it in Florida via the US mail, using the forms available online and paying by telephone with the tax collector in our home county. We’ve done this a handful of times and it has always been pretty simple.

      I’m pretty sure you can do something simliar with Texas. I’d give the vehicle registration people in Texas a call, explain that you’re military posted away from the state and buying a new car, and ask how to title and register it.

      One tricky bit is the sales tax. If you purchase the car in Illinois or Missouri, the dealer is going to want to charge the appropriate sales tax for that state. However, Texas is going to want that sales tax. In a perfect world, the dealer won’t charge tax at the time of sale, and you’ll pay the sales tax directly to Texas. However, some times the dealers can’t or won’t do that, and they insist on withholding sales tax. Then you’ll have to either get that sales tax refunded OR have the dealer remit the sales tax directly to Texas. The opportunity for things to go wrong is high.

      • Joe

        Interesting, didn’t realize that was an option, thanks for the info and quick response! Someone had told me I would have to pay tax in 2 states if I bought it in one and lived in another, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I’ll talk to the registration people in Texas and figure something out. I’ll probably be buying from a private party too so that may help with the tax issue.

        Have a good one!

        • Guest contributor

          Many states have reciprocal agreements with each other. Most may exempt you from paying the sales tax in which you are living if you can prove you paid at least as much in the other state as you would have been charged in the state where you live. Of course, there will be no refunds if you paid more in the other state that you’d be charged where you are living.

  • Therese

    Hi Kate,
    I am getting ready to file for divorce from my retired military husband. We met and married in CA, and retired to NC. I am wanting to move back to CA. An acquaintance told me the military moved her back to her home of record way back in 1993. But, I’ve read that spouses don’t have a home of record. Is that a recent military decision? And are there any programs in place to help spouses get back home?

    • Kate

      Therese, I’ve never heard of such a thing, unless your friend was residing overseas and utilized the Early Return of Dependents program. Even if it did exist, I can’t imagine that it would apply to retired military members and their families. Retirees are on their own for moving expenses after their one last move, which must be used within 12 months of retirement.

  • sometime a little thing will be dangerous. in Taxes areas when drivers are applying for the license they are misuse some important thing which could be little more dangerous in the near future. the legal authority should take care of it.

    • Watchin’ the fun

      Can anybody out there understand this mumbo-jumbo ?

  • Chris

    I’m active duty military. I kept my Oregon driver’s license and my vehicle’s registration in Oregon. And of course I was paying Oregon tax since Oregon was my state of residence when I enlisted. But one day I did the form and changed my state of residence to Washington which is where I’m serving since my S1 told me that I wouldn’t have to worry about state tax withholding any more (Oregon withholds tax and gives all back but Washington doesn’t withhold at all). So am I a legal resident of Oregon or Washington? I’m still using my Oregon driver’s license and my vehicle’s registration. Thanks.

    • Brian

      Your Home of Record has not changed. You are however, for all intents and purposes, a resident of the great State of Washington. Your HoR will not change, unless you separate, then reenter after 180 days from a location other than your HoR. Luckily, you can keep your car and DL in Oregon, just watch insurance. For simplicity, you may want to switch, but be careful of costs and possible taxes in WA. Check with others in your unit, usually the S1 will have all the gouge.

      • Chris

        Brian, so as a Washington resident, I can keep my Oregon DL and registration? And what do you mean by watch insurance? Am I allowed to change my legal residence back to Oregon?

        • Kate

          It is infinitely preferrable to have maintain a clear demonstration of intent since the entire concept of domicile (or state of legal residence) is based upon intent. By maintaining your Oregon DL and vehicle registration, you’re giving Oregon a legitimate opportunity to claim that you’ve not actually changed your state of legal residence to Washington, and for Oregon to pursue you for state income taxes. This doesn’t happen often for military, but it does happen.

          The idea behind the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA) extending protections to military members is not to allow them to change states at will to avoid paying taxes. It is to allow service member’s to maintain their “home” state (which could change over time) despite being moved around with the military.

          You really need to make a thoughtful decision about which state is, in fact, your state of legal residence, and then take ALL the steps that establish that, as listed in the article above.

          • Chris

            Right. Thank you for your response, Kate! It’s very helpful. The reality is, neither Oregon or Washington charges income tax from us. The reason for Washington is being that they just don’t charge income tax for anyone and for Oregon they don’t charge income tax for out of state active duty military. So either way I don’t pay income tax. So after thinking and talking, I’ve decided to claim Oregon as my state of legal residence since I’ll be back once I get out. I’m keeping my Oregon DL and vehicle registration as you know. And I just submitted DD 2058 to change from WA to OR. Not sure if Finance will take it since I’m not physically located in OR?

          • Kate

            That’s a good question, but I think the first step is to submit the form without any comment and see what happens. Then, my second step would be to present it as a “correction” due to the questionable guidance given by your S1. Let’s hope that one of those two angles will work for you.

  • Stephanie

    I have a question. Maybe two or even three. I seem to have been mislead. My husband and I are both from Florida, He has HOR there as well as state of legal residence. My residency is also in FL my car tag and license is all FL. He joined the Army in Feb and we just purchased a vehicle in TX , in a local dealer ship, where he is station for the time. Unaware of the military acts we have the new car registered here and just received the tag at the dealership. We are still waiting on the title to arrive. In this case I know you can renew tags online (since we probably will not be in Texas more than a few more months) yet do we have to change the tag and registration to FL? How difficult will it be? Who do we contact? How much does it cost? In your opinion is it worth it?

    We also have to turn in my FL vehicle in May( it is a lease) and are thinking of buying a second vehicle. At that point we are unsure of where we will be stationed. Would we purchase the vehicle with the registration and tag of the state that we are living in or is there a way for me to tell the dealers I want it registered in FL and use my FL tag? How can I prove my point to them?

    Thank you for your time!

    • Brian

      Well the nice thing is that both you and your husband can keep your FL residency, a benefit of changes made to the last SSCRA. This makes income taxes much easier, since you can be a non-resident in the state your are working.
      Your car issue is pretty simple, but has several answers. The first and most important is to make sure you do not violate the rule of three, License, Insurance, and registration. Two of those three need to be from same state. I will assume you are going to keep your FL DL, so that means your registration should also be in FL. Your Insurance HAS TO BE in the state your located. Different states have different coverage requirements, so that is just smart.
      You bought a car in Texas. You registered it in TX, paid sales tax in TX. SO remember the rule, two out of three must match. Make sure that if you transfer to FL, you show that you paid sales tax in TX. Remember, sometimes easier is not cheaper.
      If you buy a car, you should be able to register it anywhere you have a legal address.
      Good Luck and enjoy trying to navigate all the new rules of military living.

  • Jon

    I am a California resident but in the process of moving my state of legal residence to Nevada where I intend to retire. I have already purchased my retirement home in Nevada but I am currently stationed in Maryland. I am not paying California tax since I am out of state. When I retire to Nevada in a couple of years, what are the chances that California will tax my military pension even though I have already declared Nevada was my new residence.

    • USFSPA Killer

      First of all, you will NOT get a “military pension”, you will get military retired PAY ! “Moving” your state of residence to Nevada will sever your legal ties to California. You can add to your Nevada residency claim by getting a Nevada drivers license, registering your car(s) there, registering to vote in Nevada and paying Nevada state income tax (if they have one). Not legal advice, nor am I a lawyer.

  • Felicia

    Hello All,
    My husband’s home of record is North Carolina, but his residency has been Washington State for several years now. He files for his absentee ballot etc. I have had an Oregon license since our last duty station there, but we PCS’d to North Carolina, and recently bought a house. When it comes to our income taxes, can we still file under Washington even though we bought a house? We do not intend to stay here, or retire here. We intend to go back to Washington as soon as he gets out, we just couldn’t bare to send another months rent down the drain of no return. If I get my North Carolina License, would that help?

    • Kate

      Felicia, we would need a lot more information to answer your question.

      As the spouse of an active duty military member, federal law permits you to maintain a valid residency in the state where your husband maintains his residency, or to move your residency to the state where you actually live. Your home ownership is irrelevant to the question.

      If your husband is a valid resident of Washington, the question is whether YOU are a valid resident of Washington. As discussed, residency (or domicile) is predicated upon your INTENT. You demonstrate your INTENT by taking actions such as registering to vote, actually voting, maintaining a driver’s license, registering vehicles, and any number of other small actions that show your state of mind when it comes to your permanent residence. Unfortunately, if you are not a Washington resident, you can not establish residency from afar.

      I hope that helps you find the right answer for yourself

  • SnakeDoc

    Does anyone knows how this works with New Hampshire. I changed my state residency from Alabama but my family will pcs soon. We didn’t buy any property here and are worried we might have to change our residency. Any help would be great. If you can site a legal statue that would be very useful.

    • Kate

      SnakeDoc, we would need a lot more information to answer your question. If you have change your residency to New Hampshire, and you PCS away from New Hampshire, then you have the choice of maintaining your New Hampshire residency or adopting residency in the state to which you move.

      The applicable laws are the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act.

  • Guest contributor

    State residency requirements usually vary from state to state but generally, most go along with your intent to claim a particular state by showing the longterm intent to remain there by getting that state’s driver license, vehicle registration, voter registration, real estate property ownership, paying state income tax (if that state has a state income tax), etc.

  • Brian

    My state of legal residence is TX. I am stationed in MD, but only for another month, until I PCS to Germany. For various reasons, I had to change my drivers license and vehicle registration for the last month in MD before I move to Germany. I intend to keep TX as my legal state of residence. Have I messed this up by getting a MD drivers license and vehicle registered here, even though when I return in 3 years I plan to switch it all back to TX?

    • Guest contributor

      “For various reasons……….”, must have been some VERY “strong” reasons – Do you still own property and vote in Texas ? Do you have other legal ties to Texas – bank accounts, etc ? If so, you are still a Texas resident.

  • Marcy

    my husband and i both have Florida drivers license but we reside in SC under military orders. I work in SC, does that mean that i am exempt from SC state taxes since our Domicile is Florida?

    • Watchin’ the fun

      Call the SC Income Tax Dept and ask !

    • Kate

      Marcy, driver’s licenses are only one indicator of your state of legal residence/domicile. If you own property in South Carolina, are you taking a homestead exemption on your income taxes? Where are you registered to vote, and do you actually vote? Where are your vehicles registered?

      When considering domicile, you have to look at all the available evidence.

  • Master Guns

    I joined the Marine Corps in 1986 in North Carolina. As such, North Carolina is my Home of Record and I have maintained it as my State of Legal Residence throughout my career. While stationed in Virginia, I bought a home and registered my vehicle; however I never changed my State of Legal Residence. I am now stationed in Georgia and am preparing to retire (effective 31 Dec 2015). I have accepted a job in Georgia and will work full time while on terminal leave. (1) Since I am still an active duty service member until 31 Dec, will I be considered a nonresident for Georgia until my official retirement date? (2) I plan to work in Georgia for at least a year; can I continue to claim North Carolina as my State of Legal Residence or am I required to change everything to Georgia. (3) Since North Carolina will be listed as my state of legal residence at the time of my retirement, is this the state my retirement pay will be reported to? Thanks in advance for your assistance.

    • Kate

      Your ability to maintain your North Carolina domicile ends the day you retire.

      For active duty members, any non-military income will be taxed at the non-resident rate by the state in which you are working; i.e., the income you earn during terminal leave will be taxed by Georgia at the non-resident rate.

      Once you retire, you immediately become responsible for following Georgia’s residency rules, including paying taxes, registering your vehicles, obtaining a Georgia driver’s license, etc. Most states have a 30 or 60 day limit for completing those actions.

      Your military retired pay will be reported to the state that you indicate when you fill out the tax paperwork for your military retired pay. That should be Georgia, as that will become your state of legal residence as soon as you retire.

      • Guest contributor

        Kate – A military member on “terminal leave” is still on active duty and can maintain their prior tax status while on terminal leave as there is no “special income tax classification” for terminal leave personel as there is no special income tax classification while on regular leave during one’s service time either. The tax change over happens on the first day of actual retirement after the terminal leave ends or active duty ends.

        • Kate

          Yes. However, this reader will be earning non-military income while he is on terminal leave. That income is NOT eligible to be taxed by the domicilary state vs. the state in which it is earned. The SCRA provisions that permit a service member to pay taxes on their military income to their state of domicile do not apply to non-military income. This is true for part-time jobs held while on regular active duty as well as employment during terminal leave.

      • Master Guns

        Kate,

        Thank you so very much for taking the time to respond to my questions. I will ensure I have everything in order (vehicle registration, license, military retirement pay) prior to my official retirement in December. Again, thank you!

        Master Guns

  • Confuse

    How will it affect us if we buy a house in our new PCS location that is not HOR. I was told that if we do this, we will have to change everything, such as, driver’s license, vehicle registration, etc. Please advise.

  • Kate

    There is no requirement to change your state of legal residence just because you buy a house there. Just be sure that you do not accept any homestead exemption that requires you to affirm that you are a legal resident of the state in which the property is located.

  • Michael LaChance

    Does this law cover DoD employees and their spouses as well?

    • Kate

      Mr. LaChance, it does not. The applicable laws, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act, do not apply to civilian DOD employees. There are laws that apply to civilian DOD employees in certain situations, such as postings abroad, but they fall outside my area of expertise.

  • Confused

    What [Army] document(s) declares my legal residency or domicile? I ask because I know where I live (Virginia) and my HOR is New York, but my desired legal residency is Texas. Since I have not lives in my home state of Texas for a long time, the only proof I have that I’m from Texas is a drivers license. I have been paying state taxes to Virginia for the last 4 years and recently someone told me “Don’t do that! Re-file your tax returns and get that money back.” Is this accurate/legal? Thanks for your help…

    • USFSPA Killer

      Confused – yea, where did you get the idea that the Army controls your HOR ? The Army could care less about where you live , just as long as you meet your military job requirements. YOU decide what your HOR is going to be by driver’s license, vehicle tags, owning property, voting, opening bank accounts, showing intent to live somewhere permanently, until you “uproot” and move somewhere else and do it all over again there..

      • Kate

        USFSPA Killer, this is 100% incorrect because you are confusing Home of Record vs. State of Legal Residence/Domicile. Your Home of Record is the place from which you entered the military, nothing else. It can not be changed unless there was an administrative error at the time you entered the military, or you leave the service and rejoin at a later date.

        All the things that you list are demonstrations of a person’s state of legal residence, or domicile.

        • Confused

          I have discovered a form called DD form 2058 “State of Legal residence Certificate,” but to my knowledge no one fills this out, at least not as a matter of course. Because there is so much misinformation out there, I (and lots of other service members) have been doing things that work against our claim of legal residency. For example, I’ve been filing taxes in Virginia (a few legal and tax experts told me I needed to), and the Commonwealth of Virginia requires military personnel to register your vehicle in Virginia if you “live” there, no matter where your HOR or legal residence are. Therefor, I will have a hard time claiming TX as my Legal residence with only a drivers license.

      • Confused

        I’m not too worried about what the Army think. I’m worried about what the State of Virginia tax office thinks. I didn’t pay taxes in Virginia in 2014 (because my “residence” is TX and my HOR is NY, even though I am stationed and live in Virginia), and I got hit with a $3500 tax bill. That was no fun, but I paid it because that seemed easier than having Virginia take all my paychecks or going to jail.

    • Kate

      Your Home of Record is the place from which you entered the military. No one declares it, it is just is. It can only be changed if it was incorrectly recorded when you joined, or if you leave the service and re-join.

      Your state of legal residency is an entirely different issue. As explained at length in the article, you demonstrate your state of legal residence, aka domicile, by your actions: where you file income taxes, where you vote, where you register your vehicles, where you maintain your driver’s license, where you file a homestead exemption on property.

      Without knowing all the details of your situation, no one can give you good advice. You may want to check with the legal services office on your installation to get their help in figuring out what you’re showing by your actions. Good luck to you.

  • Agm

    I joined the military in MA a few years back. I’m currently stationed in VA. half of my family lives in NH so my intent is to move back there so I changed my home of intent to NH. How can show that intent if I don’t personally own any property in NH? Can I use the address of one of my family members to get a license/register to vote?

    Thanks for the help

    • USFSPA Killer

      Agm – You must be physically present – live there – to “get a license/register to vote”.

    • Kate

      Agm, it is nearly impossible to establish domicile without being physically present in the state. You can check New Hampshire’s requirements to see if you are able to take any of the steps that would show your intent: obtaining a driver’s license, registering to vote, registering a vehicle, etc. I have heard of situations where military members or spouses have been able to take advantage of certain allowances that let them achieve their goal of establishing residency in a place where they are not physically located. However, these are rare exceptions. Under the law, there is no provision for obtaining or establishing residency in a state in which you do not live.

  • Michelle S

    Military spouse stationed in California where I am working. Our cars are registered here, I’m registered to vote here but have yet to change my driver’s license from Georgia to California. Should I be filing state taxes with California or Georgia? Thanks in advance

  • Guest

    Are USPHS Commissioned Corps officer’s spouses covered under the MSRRA?

    • Guest Contributor

      You need to check with HQ’s HHS at 1-877-696-6775

  • Adam

    I am a full time active military. My state of legal residence is FL, which doesn’t have a State Income Tax. I moved to VA in June on TAD orders. Do I still need to file a State Tax Return for VA even though it is not my legal residence?

    Thanks,

    • Guest Contributor

      No

    • Kate

      You do not need to file in Virginia IF you have maintained your state of legal residence in Florida AND you do not have non-military income in Virginia. If you have non-military income in Virginia, such as a part-time job or a rental property, then you will file a non-resident return for that portion of your income.

      • Adam

        I really appreciate the quick response.

        Best,

  • Vanessa Marshall

    My Husband and I both are Texas residents as is our HOR. We just got stationed in Florida. What i am wondering is how do i maintain TX residency while still complying with the local law? FL requires you change your license a month after moving. Same with license plates on your car. Is this something you can help me with?

    • Kate

      Military members are never required to change their driver’s licenses or vehicle registrations due to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Florida does not require military spouses to change their driver’s licenses. You will be fine.

  • Scott

    Once the 2058 is filled out, who do I turn it in to? Customer service desk, finance?

  • Elisabeth

    My husband submitted a DD form 2058 a few months before we moved to San Diego (around March, we married in April, and moved in July). His paycheck still says Ohio (his home of record). How do we know if the form was processed and went through so that I can stay a Florida resident?

    • Kate

      Elisabeth, I’m a little confused. Where did he reside when he filled out the Form 2058? If his Leave and Earnings Statement still shows Ohio, then the form did not go through and probably should be resubmitted. Good luck to you!