If you live, work, or do business in multiple states, your income may be subject to the taxation requirements of various jurisdictions.
This can get complex and confusing very quickly.
For example, how do you determine your state income taxes if your income comes from more than one state?
Or, let’s say you own a business you registered in one state but which operates in others — and each state has its own payroll withholding requirements. How do you withhold from an individual employee’s paycheck?
What if that employee lives in yet another state?
The rising popularity of hybrid and remote work has made these questions more pertinent than ever in the new year. That’s why employees and employers who generate income in more than one state must understand the potential pitfalls that could lead to costly tax mistakes.
We’ll explore the basics of multistate taxation, types of multistate taxes, and strategies for managing taxes in multiple states.
Each state has the right to impose individual and corporate income taxes on businesses, not to mention general sales taxes, excise taxes, property taxes, license taxes, and more.
To make matters even more confounding, the nature of these different types of taxes can also vary. While most states charge a flat income tax rate anywhere from 1% to 10%, some use a progressive marginal tax, and others have a state alternative minimum tax.
Furthermore, taxable income liability state-by-state may differ from the total income tax on the federal level. You also need to apportion taxable income and deductions to the correct state based on the amount of business done in that state.
You’re not alone! 48% of employers cite multistate payroll taxes as a significant or growing concern for their organization. The process of accurately calculating and paying taxes to multiple states while remaining in compliance with different laws and regulations can be complicated and time-consuming. This includes understanding the various tax rates, filing requirements, and payment deadlines.
Another significant wrinkle: What constitutes doing business in a given state?
Previously on this blog, we have discussed the concept of “nexus,” used by states to determine when an out-of-state entity has a sufficient financial connection to their state to trigger the application of state tax laws.
Suppose you sell goods or services to customers across state lines, such as through an e-commerce business, out-of-state vendor, or other entity like a corporation or partnership connected to another taxing jurisdiction. In that case, you must understand nexus if you want to avoid being audited by other states or territories — so take a look at our article on the subject for a deeper dive.
The key question (which is by no means simple to answer) you should ask is this:
How much do I owe in each state?
The first step in answering this question is critical for any complex tax return: diligent record-keeping and top-notch organization.
In many states, you must pay tax on all income earned during the tax year — from all sources. Generally, however, you get a tax credit for taxes paid to other states. Putting it another way: if you receive income from your business operations in a state where you don’t live, you may have to pay taxes in both states, but your home state will give you a tax credit toward the tax you paid in the other state.
We’ll touch on this point again shortly, but first, there is a key concept you need to understand: reciprocity.
A state reciprocal agreement, or reciprocity, is an agreement in which two states allow a resident of one state only to pay taxes where they live while requesting an exemption from tax withholding in the other (reciprocal) state — for example, a state where they work.
For example, if you live in North Dakota but work in Montana (two states with reciprocity), you can request that your employer stop withholding Montana taxes. Then, you would only have to file a North Dakota return due to the reciprocal agreement.
For those who live in one state but work in another, this can save you the significant inconvenience of filing returns in multiple states.
The following states have reciprocal tax agreements:
Further considerations and criteria, including for states mentioned above, follow.
Bottom line: You may need to file two state tax returns in two states: a resident tax return for your state and a nonresident tax return for the state where you work.
Here’s the good news: thanks to a 2015 Supreme Court ruling, you won’t end up paying double tax in this situation. Upholding a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling, the high court ruled a Maryland “double taxation” law unconstitutional, setting a key precedent.
That means that if you need to file two state returns, the state where you live should provide a way to reduce your tax liability by the same amount you paid in the other state. For example, they may provide an equivalent tax credit to offset your liability.
Regardless of reciprocity, tax credits, and other considerations, multistate taxation is confusing and complex. However, with the right strategies and expert guidance, employers and employees can simplify the process and ensure that all taxes are paid in full and on time.
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Above & Beyond
New York City
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Jeff Coyle, CPA, Partner of Rosenberg Chesnov, has been with the firm since 2015. He joined the firm after 20 years of business and accounting experience where he learned the value of accurate reporting, using financial information as a basis for good business decisions and the importance of accounting for management.
He is a diligent financial professional, able to manage the details and turn them into relevant business leading information. He has a strong financial background in construction, technology, consulting services and risk management. He also knows what it takes to create organizations having built teams, grown companies and designed processes for financial analysis and reporting.
His business experience includes:
Creating and preparing financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting.
Planning and preparation of GAAP and other basis financial statements.
Providing insight on financial results and providing advice based on those results.
Jeff also has a long history of helping individuals manage their taxes and plan their finances including:
Income tax planning and strategy.
Filing quarterly and annual taxes.
General financial and planning advice.
Prior to joining the firm in 2015, Jeff was in the private sector where he held senior financial and management positions including Controller and Chief Financial Officer. He has experience across industries, including construction, technology and professional services which gives him a deep understanding of business.
Jeff graduated from Montclair State University, he is a CPA and member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants and New Jersey State Society of Public Accountants.
Jody H. Chesnov, CPA, Managing Partner of Rosenberg Chesnov, has been with the firm since 2004. After a career of public accounting and general management, Jody knows the value of good financials. Clarity, decision making, and strategy all start with the facts – Jody has been revealing the facts and turning them into good business results for more than three decades.
He takes a pragmatic approach to accounting, finance and business. His work has supported many companies on their path to growth, including helping them find investors, manage scaling and overcome hurdles. His experience and passion for business reach beyond accounting and he helps businesses focus on what the numbers mean organizationally, operationally and financially.
He has a particular expertise in early-stage growth companies. His strengths lie in cutting through the noise to come up with useful, out of the box, solutions that support clients in building their businesses and realizing their larger visions.
Prior to joining the firm in 2004, Jody was in the private sector where he held senior financial and management positions including General Manager, Chief Financial Officer and Controller. He has experience across industries, which gives him a deep understanding of business.
Jody graduated with a BBA in Accounting from Baruch College, he is a CPA and member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants.
In addition to delivering above and beyond accounting results, Jody is a member of the NYSCPA’s Emerging Tech Entrepreneurial Committee (ETEC), Private Equity and Venture Capital Committee and Family Office Committee.
He is an angel investor through the Westchester Angels, and has served as an advisor for many startup companies and as a mentor through the Founders Institute.
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