Earn Taxes

What Moving In 2020 Means For Your Taxes Now

Jeremiah Barlow  |  February 17, 2021

If the pandemic necessitated a move for you in 2020, here's a look at all the tax tips you need before filing them this year.

Did you move in 2020? Due to the pandemic, many of us moved to a new state in order to take care of a relative, secure a new job or take advantage of lower living costs when money was tight. Whatever the reason for your move, now that you’re a little more settled in, it’s time to think about tax implications. The state where you live can significantly impact your taxes – here’s a look at some of the essential considerations for your 2020 tax filings and 2021 tax planning. 

State Tax Filings

State tax filings could be unusually complicated this year, as every state wants its piece of the pie. If you lived in a state or earned income from a state at any point during 2020, you may have to file a tax return and pay taxes to that state. The basic rules on this are the same regardless of how many times you move, though moving multiple times can make things more complicated. For instance, if you lived in 3 different states for parts of last year, you may have to file three separate state tax returns.

A state may treat you as a full-year resident and tax you on all your income, even if you did not live there the whole year. This could happen if you spent at least 183 days in that state or your “domicile” in the state. Domicile is a fancy way of identifying your true home – the place you keep your family relationships and intend to go back to in the future. Temporary moves due to COVID-19 or other reasons don’t change your domicile if you mean to go back when all is said and done.

There are some tips to consider if a state ever conducts a residency audit, which many states pursue. First off, keep careful records that show when you moved. For instance, keep track of the dates you moved and keep backup for your records (sale documents, receipts for moving expenses, and so on). Also, keep records of when you earned income, such as paystubs.

Second, to avoid having a previous home treated as a “domicile,” consider selling it or renting it out, if possible, to show it is no longer your home. To show your primary ties are now in another state, obtain your driver’s license and register to vote in your new state while maintaining evidence that you’ve been celebrating holidays in your new state.

To avoid double-taxation, each state provides a credit for taxes paid to other states while you lived in that state. Make sure you claim these credits. A tax professional can help you determine the exact amount of these credits.

Home Office Tax Breaks

What will moving into a new home office mean for your taxes? If you own a small business, try to use part of your new home solely for business purposes. If you can do this, then you can deduct part of your home expenses such as utilities, insurance, mortgage interest, and real estate taxes against your business’s income. For instance, if you use 10% of your new home solely for business, you can deduct 10% of your home expenses. Setting aside even a small part of your home as a dedicated space for your business could result in significant tax savings.

For Renters

If you rented a home last year, the rent is not deductible on your Federal tax return. This could be an unpleasant surprise for those of us who previously owned a house and were able to deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes. However, keep an eye on state-by-state tax breaks, as some states allow you to deduct part or all of the rent you paid, such as New Jersey or Massachusetts. Your tax preparer can advise. 

Mortgage Interest – Limits

If you took out a new mortgage when you moved, see if your mortgage interest is entirely deductible or not. The IRS provides a deduction on interest up to the first $750,000 of debt (different limits may apply if you have a mortgage balance from before December 15th, 2017). If your mortgage is over this amount, it may make sense to pay it down more aggressively in order to reduce the amount of interest you pay. 

Hopefully, with 2020 now in the rearview mirror, life will go back to having some degree of normalcy. In the meantime, keep your tax professional informed about your moves and any significant changes that occurred in 2020 and see what they can do to help plan around that and save you money.

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