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Military Spouses Residency Relief Act

Military Spouses Residency Relief Act



What is the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act?

The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act was signed into law on November 11, 2009.  The law makes changes to the tax code and voter requirements of the spouses of members of the United States Armed Forces.  The Act allows the spouses of military personnel who are stationed in another state, away from their domicile, to claim the tax benefits associated with their domiciled state instead of having to file tax returns for both the domiciled state and the residing state.  The Act applies to income from self-employment as well as employee income.  It also applies to personal property.  The Act does not affect the disposition of real property.  Issues regarding real property, such as houses and land, are considered to be under the jurisdiction in which the real property is situated in. 

Why was the Military Spouses Residency Act passed?

Under the previous federal law spouses of military personnel were required to file tax returns for the state in which they were domiciled and also in the state where they resided with their active duty spouse.  The law was enacted to make it easier for spouses of military personnel and provide them with the same tax benefits as their military personnel spouses.

What are the requirements of the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act?

In order for a the spouse of a member of the armed forces to be eligible to receive military spouse status the spouse must be living in a state other than that which is designated as his/her domicile; the spouse has relocated to that location for the sole reason of staying with the spouse; the military spouse is living in the non-domicile state as per requirements of his or her active duty.


There is a difference between a domicile and a residence.  An individual can have more than one residence but only one domicile.  A domicile is the place where an individual legally resides or has the intention of residing in the near future.  This is to say that if an individual has his or her primary residence in New Jersey and has a summer house in Montana then he or she has two residences.  However, because New Jersey is where the individual maintains a permanent residence it is his or her domicile. 

The designation of a domicile is not always cut and dry.  A domicile is created when that person leaves his or her former domicile and embarks on entering a new domicile.  The individual will be designated as having a new domicile when he or she enters the new state with the intention of living there permanently.

Intention is not bases solely on the opinion of the individual's statements.  When courts consider domicile of an individual they look at bank records, drivers licenses, tax returns, job locations and a number of other factors.

What must be provided to the government to by a military spouse?

In order to qualify for the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act a spouse must offer documentation that specifically confirms the individual is a spouse of a member of the United States Armed Forces who is living outside of his or her domicile for the sole purpose of complying with military requirements.  These documents include:

• Spouses military ID card

• Serviceman's Leave and Earnings Statement

• Serviceman's W-2

• Spouse's drivers license

• Spouse's voter registration card

• Marriage license or divorce decree

• Declaration of permanent state of residency

What are the benefits of the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act?

The main benefit associated with the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act is the option of choosing a domicile.  When a serviceman is relocated to a military designated location outside the stat of the individuals domicile the spouse of that serviceman has the option of relocating to that location and taking advantage of that states tax laws.  However, the spouse has this as an option.  If he or she wishes they may still claim the domicile as the only designated state which should be privy to state income taxes.  In the alternative, the spouse may choose to adopt the serviceman's stationed location as the new domicile.

There are many things to consider when contemplating this option.  Every state has different laws affecting taxation, divorce, child custody, personal property rights, in-state tuition for state universities and a plethora of other regulations that make it advantageous to change one's domicile.  

The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act also allows spouses who relocate to their serviceman spouses stationed residency to maintain voter rights in the domiciled state of the spouse.  This means that in order for the spouse to be able to vote he or she will be required to re-enter the domiciled state or send in an absentee ballot.

Currently there are 9 states in the Union that do not have state income taxes.  Those are: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.  Therefore it is beneficial for the spouse of a serviceman to retain this as his or her domicile.  

What to do if you are a spouse of a serviceman?

If you are the spouse of a member of the United States Armed Forces it is beneficial to discuss the issue of the Military Spouses Residence Relief Act with a lawyer or someone provided by the military to counsel on these matters.  Changing a domicile can have far reaching and long lasting effects when concerning tax and property rights.  It is important to speak with someone before any decisions are made.