Military Spouse Act – Residency Relief (MSRRA)

The Military Spouse Residency Relief Act (MSRRA) provides protection to military spouses related to residency, voting, and taxes. When a servicemember leaves his or her home state in accord with military orders, the servicemember’s spouse may retain residency in his or her home state for voting and tax purposes, after relocating from that state to accompany the servicemember. The MSRRA amends the Servicemember Civil Relief Act to include the same privileges to a military servicemember’s spouse.

Eligibility Factors

  • Is legally married to the spouse; AND
  • The servicemember is in the state on military orders; AND
  • Currently resides in a state different than the state of his or her domicile; AND
  • Resides in the state solely in order to live with the servicemember; AND
  • The servicemember is present in the state in compliance with military orders.  A military spouse does not lose his or her status if a servicemember is deployed to a war zone or other location where the military spouse is not allowed to follow. The military treats this as a “travel” or “TDY” situation.

Some States Require Another Factor:

  • The military spouse and the servicemember both are able to claim the same domicile.

Benefits to the Military Spouse Act Include:

  • Military spouse income earned in a servicemember’s state under military orders cannot be taxed unless the spouse establishes residency in that state.  Note: This does not mean the spouse’s state of legal residence cannot tax on income earned.
  • The act provides flexibility for military spouses to choose a no state income tax state as long as they have established legal residency and only moved due to military orders.
  • The military spouse and service member may be able to keep the same resident state regardless of which state they live in.
  • Military spouses no longer have to file multiple part-year and nonresident income tax returns when they earn wages.
  • Voting – A military spouse may vote within his or her legal state of residency or where the spouse currently resides due to military orders.
  • Personal Property Tax Exemption – Personal property taxes such as vehicle registration fee imposed by states and local jurisdictions are exempt if the military spouse’s legal residence is not in the state where he or she is based due to military orders.  Typically an exemption with that state must be filed to qualify.

Limitations to the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act

  • Spouses cannot pick and choose their states of domicile.
  • The spouse does not inherit the domicile of the servicemember upon marriage
  • The spouse must be able to show that she had the domicile before moving into a different state, and the spouse must be able to prove that the domicile existed by going through the new state’s existing list of facts and circumstances, or “proofs of intention” that will demonstrate a domicile.
  • The military spouse must have maintained that earlier domicile.
  • The spouse must have lived in a state before claiming it as a domicile. A spouse who has never lived in State X cannot simply tell the employer that they are now a domiciliary in State and become exempt from withholding.
  • State laws (and regulations now being written) will vary on what circumstances validate having established a domicile in another state, and what proof is sufficient.
  • A state may exempt military income earned while the service member is on orders out-of-state, but MSRRA does not automatically extend this exemption to a military spouse.

The Military Spouse Residency Relief Act (MSRRA) can be confusing, and fortunately for military spouses, legal assistance and free tax help are available. Contact your local legal assistance center for additional support.

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