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The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act

Couple discuss finances at a military tax center

Moving from place to place requires a lot of effort and changes. Two laws make it easier for military spouses regarding their residency, voting and state taxes.

In 2009, the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act amended the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act. MSRRA allows military spouses to maintain legal residence in the state where they lived before a permanent change of station move with their active-duty service member. A second amendment to the SCRA, called the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018, provides additional protections and benefits to military spouses.

Maintaining your legal residence under MSRRA

Every person has a state of legal residence. For most civilians, their state of legal residence is the place where they live. But service members and their families move frequently. The SCRA allows active-duty military members to maintain their legal residence in the place they consider home.

The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act allows military spouses to declare the same state of legal residency as their spouse. The Veterans Benefits and Transition Act allows spouses to make that choice regardless of when they were married. The following conditions must be met to qualify under the MSRRA:

  • The service member is living on military orders in a state that is not his/her resident state.
  • The spouse is in that state solely to live with the service member.
  • Both the service member and spouse have the same resident state.

The spouse only pays taxes on income in their state of legal residency when they meet the above conditions.

Using your spouse’s state of legal residence

Spouses may vote and pay taxes in their active-duty spouse’s state of legal residence, according to the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018.

Income covered by MSRRA

A military spouse’s income is subject to tax laws in the state of legal residence. SCRA only covers an active-duty service member’s military income so any other income is taxable by the state in which it is earned.

Military spouses and service members may be required to file and pay state income taxes on other income in the state where it is earned. This includes income from rental property.

Service members and spouses who own businesses should check with their legal and tax professionals. They can help determine if and how MSRRA and SCRA apply to their specific situations.

What MSRRA does not do

MSRRA does not permit military spouses to maintain a legal residence in a state different than their active-duty service members. State laws, however, may be more generous than the federal MSRRA.

Military spouses must fulfill their state’s residency requirements. That almost always includes having a physical presence in that state.

Sometimes a military spouse will live in a different state than the active-duty service member. In these cases, the MSRRA generally does not apply.

Access free legal assistance on your installation or call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647. You may also live chat 24/7/365. Military OneSource can help with other questions about MSRRA, SCRA, or other residence, tax or voting issues. CONUS/International? View calling options.

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