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Bill would simplify state residency rules for military spouses

January 25, 2017 (Photo Credit: Senior Airman Nicole Sikorski/Air Force)
Military spouses would be able to simplify their state residency status -- and their tax bills -- under new legislation introduced by a pair of Republican lawmakers this week.

The measure is designed to untangle the sometimes complicated residency rules surrounding military families, whose frequent duty assignment changes and cross-country moves can leave a confusing trail of paperwork.

Bill sponsors Rob Wittman, R-Va., and Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said simplifying those rules could lead to fewer financial problems for those families and even help military spouses continue their careers as they jump from state to state.

“The last thing our military families need is additional stress during tax season,” Wittman said in a statement. “Allowing military families to establish a consistent state of residency will give spouses the confidence to rejoin the workforce when they move and help them better provide for their families.”

Under current law, servicemembers are allowed to stay residents of the state where they enlisted for tax and voting purposes for the duration of their military careers. Troops who sign up at a recruiting station in Florida, for example, are considered Florida residents even if their military assignments take them to other states or countries.

Military spouses are granted that steady residency too, but only if their state of residency matches their servicemembers’ at the time of marriage. Otherwise, they’re required to refile based on their new home states’ rules with every move.

For military couples who meet and get married mid-career, that can lead to a complicated mess of state tax bills and residency regulations every few years.

“Each transition requires difficult adjustments as they adapt to new schools, new jobs, new churches and new communities,” Issa said in a statement. “They shouldn’t be burdened yet again when tax season comes around.”

The new measure allows military spouses to adopt their servicemembers’ state of residency as their own, even if they never lived there before. For all future moves, the couple will have the same state for tax and voting purposes.

The proposal was introduced in Congress last year but stalled in the House. The Congressional Budget Office has already said the move would not cost the government any money, and would have minimal effect on state and local government budgets because the population of individuals electing to make the change would be spread out all over the country.

But Wittman said the move would be a major help for a number of military families.

“Our nation's military is only as strong as the men and women serving and the families who support them,” he said. “Passing this simple residency fix will send a strong signal to our military families that we have their best interests at heart.”

No timetable has been set for hearings or a vote on the measure.

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at
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