How to File Taxes When Your Spouse Moved From a Different State

Posted by on March 14, 2013
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How to File Taxes When Your Spouse Lives in a Different State

If you’re spouse moved from a different state, you might be unsure how to file your state taxes.

“In 2013 I was a full-year resident of New York State and got a W-2 in NY. However, my wife was a part-year resident of NY (the other state being Ohio) and got two W-2s, one from NY and one from OH. So for our NY State return are we full-year residents or not?”

You may find yourself in a situation like the example above. If so, the first important thing all married couples should note before they try to deal with a complicated state tax situation is that they can actually file separate state tax returns, even if they file a joint federal return.

Filing Jointly vs. Filing Separately

Most married couples will opt to file their federal taxes together, using the married filing jointly filing status, because it provides the greatest benefit. It’s only advantageous to use the married filing separately status in very limited situations.

Even though it makes sense to file a joint federal return, if your state situation is complicated enough, it may make sense to file separate state returns. 

Take the example listed above; the man’s situation is pretty simple- he was a resident of NY for all of 2013. It’s pretty clear that he has to file a NY resident return. This will tax him on all of his income for the entire year, no matter where it was earned.

His wife’s situation is more complex because halfway through the year she moved from OH to NY. This means that she needs to file an OH part-year resident return and then a NY part-year resident return.

Her OH part-year resident return will tax her on all of her income (no matter where it was earned) for that portion of the year that she was a permanent resident of OH. Her NY part-year resident return will tax her on all of her income (no matter where it was earned) for the portion of the year that she was a permanent resident of NY.

Some taxpayers may opt to go ahead and file a joint return even though one spouse was a part-year resident. It’s certainly more convenient, and if you moved early in the year, it probably won’t end up making that much of a difference. Plus it could actually end up saving you money on tax preparation fees.

Phew! That’s a lot of state tax information for one couple.

For more information about the supremely complicated world of state taxes, check out some of our other blog posts:

State Income Tax: Living in One State, Working in Another

Filing Taxes in Two Different States – What You Need to Know

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73 Responses to “How to File Taxes When Your Spouse Moved From a Different State”

  1. Dominic says:

    This situation is similar to what I am experiencing. My wife lived and worked in NYC all of 2012. I lived and worked in MD for one month and then lived and worked in NYC for 11 months. I have already filed in MD as a part-time resident. For NYS, though, I am a bit confused. I have filled out a resident return for my wife and a part-time resident return for myself (including a part-time NYC resident worksheet for myself). Do we file jointly as we did for our Federal return or do we each file separately? Does this affect our standard deduction? It seems like the two forms we filled out (IT-201 and IT-203) should be filed separately.

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Dominic,

      I found the answer to your question buried in the Instructions for Form IT-203 under the heading “Joint filing exception for some married taxpayers.” Here’s what it says: “If you are married and filing a joint federal income tax return but one spouse is a New York State resident and the other is a nonresident or part-year resident, you are required to file separate New York State returns. The resident must use Form IT-201, Resident Income Tax Return. The nonresident or part-year resident, if required to file a New York State return, must use Form IT-203. However, if you both choose to file a joint New York State return, use Form IT-201 and both spouses’ income will be taxed as full-year residents of New York State.” You can find it here on page 6: http://www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/2012/inc/it203i_2012.pdf.

      Basically, what you are planning on doing is correct (filing Forms IT-201 and IT-203 separately). However, if you want to make your lives simpler you could just file a joint resident return. This would probably (though not definitely) mean that you end up paying a little more in taxes to NYS, but because you were a NY resident for eleven months anyway, it probably won’t be that much more. Both options would be correct, it just comes down to how much you value convenience vs. a little extra money spent. On the upside, it would probably lower your tax preparation costs, so financially it might even make sense to do it.

      As for the standard deduction, it depends on your filing status anyway. So if you did choose to file separate NY returns, you would basically just pretend that you had filed separate federal returns. According to those same instructions, “If you file a joint federal return but must file a separate return for New York State, calculate the Federal amount column as if you had filed a separate federal return.” So this means you would each take the standard deduction for married filing separately which for 2012 amounts to $5,950 each.

  2. veronica says:

    Hi I have a question. Ok I’m married but been separated for 7 years I live in Georgia and my husband lives in Oklahoma can my husband file taxes on me without my information? On my W2 I filed single but when I called about my tax return they said it has that I filed married but I have my W2 with me and it has single on it. There saying I won’t get a tax return back because on their paperwork it says married. What should I do? They never sent me a letter or called saying this information till I called wondering why I haven’t received my return.

  3. RT says:

    Hi,

    I’m new to the process. Any help would be appreciated. My husband has been working in WA state for the whole year. I worked in WA for the first half of the year and I’ve currently moved to CA. Now what would be the best way to fill out my W4 with current employer (me not paying CA taxes for first half of the year + my husband not paying any of the CA taxes)? Should I file tax jointly (i.e., ‘married’ or ‘married filing separately’)? If I file taxes jointly, does my husband has to pay any of the CA state tax? (he is resident of WA state).
    Thanks, RT

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi RT,

      I suggest filing your federal tax return jointly with your husband. When it comes to filing state returns, you will file a part-year resident state return for CA. You would typically file another one for Washington but they do not have income tax. On this state return, you can report how many months you have lived in each state.

      As a general rule, you have to file a resident tax return in the state where you lived, a part-year resident return in any state you moved to/from, and a nonresident return in a state where you earned money but didn’t live.

      Filing a joint federal return and separate state returns will not have an effect on your husband paying CA state tax.

  4. Mike says:

    Hi,
    I just got a letter in the mail saying I owed more money to the state of Ohio and I did my taxes incorrectly.

    My fiance lived in NY while she made her income, she moved to Ohio in August of 2012 when we got married, but had no income in Ohio. I filed our federal taxes married filing jointly and I filed our state taxes married filing seperately for me and my wife; my income for Ohio and her income for NY. When I called to explain the situation, they said I need to include her income on my Ohio tax so the adjusted gross income for Ohio matched that for federal and then include a schedule d.

    When doing this it turns out I’m being taxed more in Ohio than before when I filed separately, and on income that my wife earned in NY.

    Is it true when you file jointly on your federal tax and seperately in your state tax, that these tax forms should have the same adjusted gross income?

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Mike,

      It is correct that your federal AGI must match your state AGI. If married filing separately on a state return, depending on Ohio’s allocation worksheet, the state AGI may be lower. However, each spouse’s income must be reported on each return since you both are still filing as married (as opposed to single).

  5. Denise says:

    Hi
    I married in June of 2014. My husband and I both live and work in different states. He lives in NC, works there and owns property and I live, work and own property in NY. I’m afraid not to file joint because of consequences that may arise by not doing so. The matter is so complicated that I believe it is best to file separate returns. I will not permanently reside in the state of NC; until my NY employer has an opening. Is filing separate the best option?

  6. janet says:

    Hi.

    I am unsure on how to file taxes if i have been married for a year, but my husband is stationed in CA and I am living in AZ. I don’t work but I am a full time student.

  7. Maglout says:

    Is it best when doing our taxes to file married filing separately when married but live in separate states.. My husband lives and works in MA and i live and work in TX. Unfortunately for us we will be living in separate states for another 3 years until our kids turn 18.

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Maglout,

      To avoid confusion and error, I suggest filing your federal return jointly and state returns separately.

      • Catherine says:

        How do I figure out my spouse’s AGI when we did federal MFJ? MA state taxes require it. thanks.

        • Tax Advisor says:

          Hi Catherine,

          This can seem a bit tricky. When filing as married filing jointly, you are seen as one entity to the IRS. Therefore, you will enter the same AGI for your spouse that you did for yourself. For example, if your AGI is $23,000 then your spouse’s AGI is $23,000.

        • Phil says:

          Catherine-

          I have the same question this year. Did you resolve this question of reporting AGI to Massachusetts?

          • Tax Advisor says:

            Hi Phil,

            If you are filing a joint tax return with your spouse, you both will share tax responsibility. This being the case, you will enter the same AGI for your spouse that you did for yourself.

  8. Jon says:

    My wife and I lived and worked in GA for the most part of 2014. My wife moved to NC to live and work, and I moved to TX to live and work. We’d like to file federal income tax in married filing jointly status. What should I do for the state income tax returns?

  9. John says:

    I live and work in Mass and my wife lives and works in PA, how should we file taxes?

  10. Angie says:

    Hi,

    My husband and I got married July 2014, he has his residence in OR and I have mine in WA. He works in OR and has to pay state tax. I work in WA and have no state tax. We filed our federal jointly, however the OR form wants to tax my wages. Is there a form for this situation so I don’t have to pay OR?

  11. Jana says:

    Hi my husband works and lives in Nevada, I moved to Idaho 10 months ago and do not work. Do we still file separate state tax forms? Thanks.

  12. H says:

    Hi,

    I got married in Oct ’14. My husband lives in NJ (before & after). I live in GA finishing up my school. I work part time and he works fulltime in NJ. We have shown my husband’s permanent address in GA for legal documents and for joint bank accounts phone bills because he lives in a rental place and works as a contractor so its not a fixed resident.

    We want to files taxes together, how can we do it ? Shall we do joint federal and separate state returns ? or Something different?

  13. Karim Rejaul says:

    I lived in NY until April 2014. Now I am working in Virginia since April 2014, but my wife and kids are living in NY. My wife has no income for 2014; I provide them all supports. Could you please advise me about my tax filing?

    Thanks.
    Rejaul

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Karim,

      This type of scenario can be a bit confusing so I will let you know of a few routes you could take.

      One option would be for you and your spouse to file a joint federal return and separate state returns. With this option, you would be able to report all income earned on the federal return for you and your spouse. On the state returns, you would still report as married, just filing separately. This will avoid any confusion when it comes to states. Your wife would file a NY state resident return. You would file a part year resident return for NY and a part-year resident return for VA.

      Another option would be to file a joint federal return and a joint NY return with a separate VA state return.

  14. Darshin says:

    Hi,

    My wife resides and works in CA while I reside and work in OH, for all of 2014. We want to file taxes together. Do our states allow us to file joint federal return and separate state returns?

  15. Brian says:

    Hi,

    I like and work in TX but my wife just moved to CA for a job that will last 1 year. I asked my current (maybe former) tax accountant if we could file jointly but with separate state tax returns and they said it’s only possible if I don’t spend a single day in CA this year. Is this accurate information? It seems very unreasonable for a married couple to not visit each other for even 1 day so I am skeptical. Obviously filing jointly with separate state returns would be the best solution for us but I only want to do it if it’s legal. I do plan on visiting her for at least a few weeks out of the year.

    Thanks!

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Brian,

      As mentioned in the article, you are 100% able to file a joint federal tax return and separate state tax returns. In fact, your case is a realistic example of when many couples will do just that. I’m unsure of what your accountant was referring to; possibly a specific case? However, based on what you have mentioned above, this would most likely be most beneficial for you and your spouse (not to mention, less confusing).

  16. Sandra says:

    Hi Tax Advisor,

    From reading the comments, it makes sense for my husband and I to file our Federal tax return jointly, but to file our state taxes separately since we live in different states.

    He lives and works in CA, I live and am retired receiving retirement benefits in AZ for 2015. My question is about severance pay I received after my retirement. Although I retired and moved to AZ, I received severance pay for 5 months from my CA employer. They did tax me at the CA withholding rate and CA OASDI/EE for the period that severance was paid. Is there something special I should do to report those withholding amounts?

    My husband has decided to work through 2016, so I will move back to CA and look for work in CA since he will not ready to move to AZ until his retirement. That should solve the problem for 2016 and going forward once we both make the move to AZ together.

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Sandra,

      Congratulations on your retirement!

      You can claim the tax paid to CA incorrectly by filing a non-resident CA state tax return along with your resident state return and federal return. You will still need to file this separate from your husband since it is a non-resident return.

  17. Charley says:

    My family lives in NJ and I found a job in Illinois and moved to Illinois. I visit my family on weekends.

    With this said, based on your advice, I could file fed tax jointly but state tax separately. But NJ requires us to use the same filing status as Fed. So if I file NJ tax jointly, do I have to include my Illinois income on NJ tax even if I am Illinois residence with Illinois income only?

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Charley,

      This year:
      Depending on when you moved to Illinois from New Jersey, you may need to file a part-year resident state tax return for both NJ and IL. However, that instance would ONLY be for the year in which you moved from one state to the other. Part-year resident returns allow you to report your IL income on one and your NJ income on the other along with the duration that you lived in NJ and when you then moved to IL.

      Future years:
      If you are an Illinois resident and also earning your income in Illinois, then you would only need to file an Illinois state resident tax return (along with your federal tax return). Visiting NJ would not make you a resident and you would only be liable for NJ taxes if you are physically earning an income on your visits there.

  18. Norm says:

    I have a situation,I am married but we live in different states. I work and live in MA, my wife does not work and lives in FL.
    From what I read above we can file jointly on our federal. What about the state tax, does she need to file a FL state return even though she has no income? Do I file a state return married filing seperately?

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Norm,

      You and your wife can file a joint federal tax return however and you can file an MA resident state tax return with a filing status of ‘married filing separately‘. However, your wife is not required to file a state tax return for FL because they are an income-tax free state. Even if she does eventually obtain a job there and starts earning an income, she will only need to file a federal return.

  19. VM81 says:

    Question I have is trying to figure out the drawbacks of filing separate state tax. If we live and work in different states, I know we can file joint federal but separate state tax returns.

    I am trying to figure out what are the drawbacks of filing separate state tax returns (besides time, complication and fees)?

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hello,

      There are several negatives when it comes to filing separately as a married couple. The main disadvantage is that your tax rate will be higher. Along with that, some other drawbacks are that you cannot claim certain credits and if you live in the community property states (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin) you have to deal with community property allocations and adjustments, which can add extra fees and frustration. Filing separate state tax returns can be most beneficial to some spouses’. It all depends on your tax situation.

  20. Linda says:

    I currently live in Alaska we have no state tax and my husband lives in Washington and also has no state tax. I may possibly be moving to California for work in January 2016 where they do have state tax. Will I be able to file “married filing separate” for the state tax for CA?

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Linda,

      Congratulations! That should be an exciting move.

      You always have the option to file a separate return from your spouse. In similar cases to yours, married filers will file a joint federal return and separate state tax returns. This provides each spouse with independent state tax responsibility but joint federal tax responsibility.

  21. Mindy says:

    We are married and residents of South Dakota (no state taxes). I (wife) am considering becoming a California resident but will have minimal or no income. I understand from reading the prior posts that we can still file jointly on Federal returns, and husband will have no tax return to file for South Dakota. Will any of his income be reported on my California return if I file separately? What about deductions reported on the federal return? Would any of these need to be reported on the state return? In other words, what, if anything, carries over from the joint federal return to my MFS California return, especially if I have no income.

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Mindy,

      If you file separate state tax returns, then your husband’s income will not have an effect on you (state-wise). However, if you file a joint federal tax return, then the income reported on that applies to both you and your spouse. You will both be responsible for any tax due federally to the IRS (if any).

  22. Danielle says:

    I am married, but I been separated for 4 and half years. How should I file?

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Danielle,

      The IRS honors the divorce laws of whichever state you reside in. For example, in some states, you remain married from a tax standpoint until your divorce is final, even though you’re legally separated. Just double check with your state laws. If you are considered to be married if you are legally separated, then you can only choose either married filing joint or married filing separately. If you are legally separated and considered to be single according to your state, then you can file as single or head of household (if eligible).

  23. Karen says:

    If I live in Florida and become a Florida resident but earn income from a vacation rental property in NY state, do I file a NYS tax return? I know Fla does not have income tax. I also work online from home for a NYS business – how do I report that income if I change to a fla resident? (I’m currently a NYS resident but am thinking of changing to Fla). My husband will remain a NYS resident.

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Karen,

      Rental income is taxable, therefore, you will be responsible for filing a NYS tax return and reporting that rental income earned on it. Just a reminder- make sure you look into the many deductions and possible credits for your rental home. This could help you a considerable amount when the IRS determines what you owe in taxes for the year.

      You will not need to report your online work income earned on your NYS tax return unless your employer is withholding from NY (in which case you would report 0 income earned in NY and the amount withheld from NY, resulting in a refund). Your online job that you work for remotely earns you income from FL (which is income tax-free).

      Since your husband is a NYS resident and you are planning to be a FL resident, it would benefit you both to file a joint federal tax return but separate state tax returns. If your husband could claim the rental income instead of you claiming it as a FL resident, your tax situation would benefit even further. This will most likely depend whose name is on the mortgage, etc.

      • Karen says:

        The home in NYS is our residence so there is no NYS sales tax since it is considered “real property”. There is no mortgage on the property but my husband is retired and on social security now, so I am not sure if the rental income would classify as income (according to social security laws) if he were to claim it rather than me? I am aware of the many deductions available to offset the income. I’ll have to look into the possible credits available.

  24. Neil says:

    We are married last year March 2015 and we were living separate. I am a resident of WA state and working here. On the other hand, my wife is the resident of NJ state and she worked part time for 3 months before she got married. She is a full time student and I bear all of her expenses. I understand from reading the prior posts that we can still file jointly on Federal returns and she can file separately for her state return. I would like to know if I have to file “Married but separate NJ state” return as WA state don’t have state income. Please suggest.

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Neil,

      You will not need to file a state tax return since you are living and working in Washington and your wife is filing as married filing separately for her NJ state tax return.

  25. Joy says:

    Hi,
    Married filing jointly, but have been separated for 8 years. He lives in another state and makes no money. Do we need to file in both states?

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Joy,

      If you want to file jointly, I suggest filing a joint federal tax return and separate state tax returns. This will allow you both to hold responsibility for your own state taxes while still being able to reap the tax benefits of filing a joint tax return.

  26. Heather says:

    My husband moved to Utah and I moved to Pennsylvania – both for the full year. I thought that we would file a joint federal return, and then he file married filing separately in Utah and I file married filing separately in PA. But, Utah states that if a spouse is a resident of Utah, then both are residents and both have to file in Utah and pay taxes in Utah. Utah taxes are higher than PA’s taxes. Do I really need to be penalized because my husband wants to live in a higher taxed state?

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Heather,

      Although states have their own guidelines, if you are a nonresident spouse and have no taxable income from Utah, you are not required to file a Utah return. Your husband may file a married filing separate Utah return using the Special Instructions on page 4.

  27. Al Myers says:

    I am now a Florida resident as of Dec 27 2015, my wife remains a Mass resident, do we have to file separately or can we file jointly?

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Al,

      You qualify to file a joint return. However, it may be more beneficial for you to file a joint federal tax return and separate state tax returns. This is common in a situation like your own. Since you are now a Florida state resident, you are not subject to income tax whereas your wife is. By filing a joint state return, you would be holding responsibility for that Massachusetts state tax on her income.

  28. Neil says:

    I have another question regarding my wife’s educational expenses. My wife is a medical student of one of the school of medicine in Dominica (Caribbean country) and also doing her Master’s degree online in one of the Private University at Minneapolis, Minnesota. Please be advice that she is an American Citizen.

    The University of Chicago provide her Form 1098-T where the Dominica Medical School did not provide us the Form 1098-T. We have asked them to provide us this form and they send us all of those tuition invoices receipt copies instead and suggested us to use those invoices receipt against our tax return if we required to file a tax.
    Please NOTE that I am paying all of her medical educational expenses including tuition, books, supplies, and equipment that a student needs for course of study.

    Please see below details both school’s tuition cost separately.
    School of Medicine (Dominica):
    Total tuition cost 2015: $30,000.00
    Books and other expenses: $3000.00
    Did not receive Form 1098-T

    State University (Minnesota):
    Total tuition cost 2015: $12,000.00
    Books and other expenses: $1000.00
    Received Form 1098-T

    We will be filing Form 1040, Married Jointly and also we will use Form 8863 Education Credits
    (American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credits)

    I am just wondering if it will do any help (get more refund) if we include both school’s tuition fees and expenses? Will our refund will be same if we include both school or shows only one school tuition fees and expenses? Please suggest.

  29. janet cole says:

    I am married but have not got legally separated yet. I live in ca he lives in Al. for the past three years I don’t know how to get a hold of him or any of his information do i file married filing separately

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Janet,

      That is correct. In this type of tax situation, the best alternative is to file married separately. If you are not in contact with each other, then he would not be filing a joint tax return without any of your income information to report either.

  30. Henry says:

    My wife does not work. We live together in IN for the first 3 months during which I worked. For the next 9 months, I moved to MO to work. We filed jointly for IRS. What about State taxes?

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Henry,

      You have the option to either file joint state returns or separately. If you file joint returns, it is important that you know you are required to use your combined Adjusted Gross Income. For this reason, it is common for married couples in your tax position to file joint federal returns but separate state returns.

  31. Ben H. says:

    My wife and I got married in June. I lived in Alabama all 12 months of 2015, she moved to Alabama from Maryland when we got married. She did not have any income in Alabama, but she did have some income in Maryland (until we got married). How would you suggest we file our state income?

    Thank you,

    Ben

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Ben,

      Congratulations on tying the knot!

      This actually happens more often than you may think. Since you are required to use the filing status that you qualify to be on the last day of the year on your tax return, you’ll each file as married. Since it will only be for this year, I suggest filing a joint federal tax return and separate state tax returns. When you file a joint return as married, you are taxed with a combined Adjusted Gross Income. Filing separate tax returns will help you to avoid that and further confusion. This will allow you to be independently responsible for your own income tax from each state.

  32. Alex says:

    Hi, I have a question regarding this: I live in NYS and my husband lives in OH it is best for us to file MFJ for federal than to file separately. I lived in NYS all of 2015 and he lived in OH all of 2015 will MFS for state returns prevent both states to taxing all of our income in both states? If so, can I efile my federal MFJ return and then efile both OH and NY as MFS with Rapidtax?

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Alex,

      You can definitely file a joint federal tax return with separate state tax returns. This is common for taxpayers in your situation. This will allow you to report your individual adjusted gross incomes instead of a combined AGI as you would need to with a joint tax return. You can do this with RapidTax as well! If you have any questions throughout the process, you can call or livechat our tax team.

  33. Robert says:

    Hi, I need some advice on filling state returns. I work in Arizona while my wife works in California, temporary situation. I am thinking of filling separate state returns. Which is better, married filling joint for both states or married filling separately?

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Robert,

      In your tax situation, it is common for a couple to file a joint federal return but separate state tax returns. It makes things a bit simpler since you will each take responsibility for your own state taxes. You will still receive the tax benefits of being married but you won’t be taxes (state-wise) on a combined income.

  34. Buze says:

    am living and working in Austin, Texas but my wife is working in Maryland but working in DC. Every Year, we file tax jointly. I am losing a tremendous amount of money because of MD tax. I could benefit if I file tax as Texas resident because Texans are exempted from personal income tax. Should we file tax, as husband and wife, as MD residents? or can I file as Texas resident and my wife as MD resident but jointly? I am quite confused. any help would be appreciated.
    Thank you

    • Tax Advisor says:

      Hi Buze,

      There are many married couples who face this dilemma. A typical way to go about filing taxes while still being able to take advantage of all benefits of being married is to file a joint federal tax return while then filing separate state tax returns. Keep in mind that you will still file as married on your state tax return just choosing the ‘married filing separately’ option. This tends to be more beneficial since you will each be taxed by one state on your own adjusted gross income as opposed to being taxed on a combined adjusted gross income by two states.

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