How to File Taxes When Your Spouse Moved From a Different State

If your spouse moved from a different state, you might be unsure how to file your state taxes.

“In 2013 I was a full-year resident of New York State and got a W-2 in NY. However, my wife was a part-year resident of NY (the other state being Ohio) and got two W-2s, one from NY and one from OH. So for our NY State return are we full-year residents or not?”

You may find yourself in a situation like the example above. If so, the first important thing all married couples should note before they try to deal with a complicated state tax situation is that they can actually file separate state tax returns, even if they file a joint federal return.

Filing Jointly vs. Filing Separately

Most married couples will opt to file their federal taxes together, using the married filing jointly filing status, because it provides the greatest benefit. It’s only advantageous to use the married filing separately status in very limited situations.

Even though it makes sense to file a joint federal return, if your state situation is complicated enough, it may make sense to file separate state returns. 

Take the example listed above; the man’s situation is pretty simple- he was a resident of NY for all of 2013. It’s pretty clear that he has to file a NY resident return. This will tax him on all of his income for the entire year, no matter where it was earned.

His wife’s situation is more complex because halfway through the year she moved from OH to NY. This means that she needs to file an OH part-year resident return and then a NY part-year resident return.

Her OH part-year resident return will tax her on all of her income (no matter where it was earned) for that portion of the year that she was a permanent resident of OH. Her NY part-year resident return will tax her on all of her income (no matter where it was earned) for the portion of the year that she was a permanent resident of NY.

Some taxpayers may opt to go ahead and file a joint return even though one spouse was a part-year resident. It’s certainly more convenient, and if you moved early in the year, it probably won’t end up making that much of a difference. Plus it could actually end up saving you money on tax preparation fees.

Phew! That’s a lot of state tax information for one couple.

For more information about the supremely complicated world of state taxes, check out some of our other blog posts:

State Income Tax: Living in One State, Working in Another

Filing Taxes in Two Different States – What You Need to Know

Photo via Graham Fletcher on Flickr

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81 Replies to “How to File Taxes When Your Spouse Moved From a Different State”

  1. My wife works and lives in NY and our family (me and a kid) lives in Michigan in whole 2017. She visited us only in long weekends a few times of the year. I want to file federal Head of Household because I believe I qualify for all requirements except this one confusing me, which says “…you did not live with your spouse at any time during the year”. Does this mean even one day or a few days of her visiting the family will violate this requirement? Thanks for the help!

  2. If I live full time in TX being paid in TX, and my wife lives in CA and is retired with no income, can we file jointly in Texas for both Federal and State taxes ($0 in TX)? Then not filing in CA.

    1. If both you and your spouse live in your respective states for the entire year, or the state has a record of your residency, a return is required to be filed with the specific state for the income earned in that year. If your wife is receiving any pension income or retirement income, this is still subjected to taxes in the State of California. It may be for the best to file married filing separately, otherwise, your income earned in TX may be subjected to taxes.

      1. Thanks for the reply. My wife is getting social security payments, although I understand they are not taxed by the state of California.
        Regardless, does she need to file a separate California state income tax?
        So do we file a joint Federal tax return and file separate state tax returns?

  3. My wife, lives and works in California. I work in the airline industry (flight attendant) and decided in May, to live in an RV full- time. She has not gotten used to idea of life on the road quite yet. I gained resident status in a non-income tax state, and I am based at SFO. Up until now, we filed California Federal and State Income tax jointly. How will our tax filing situation change for tax year 2017?

    1. If you now have residence in a non-income tax state, you generally would no longer have to file a Resident State Return. However, if you or your spouse receive a W-2 statement showing CA in Box 15-20, then you would be required to file a Non-Resident CA Return. You would always be required to file a Federal Return.

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