Working Remotely during COVID-19? Your Income May Be Taxed Twice

At the beginning of the pandemic, many workers were sent home armed with a laptop and other remote equipment so they could work remotely until it was safe to reopen public spaces again. But if you’re doing your job in a state different from your usual one, beware: You may need to file returns and perhaps pay taxes there.

Each state tax system is a unique combination of rules that consider how long a worker is there, what income is earned, and where the worker’s true home, known as domicile, is. But nearly all states that have income taxes impose them on workers who are passing through. In two dozen states, that can be for just one day.

So far, 13 states and the District of Columbia have agreed not to enforce their tax rules for remote workers who are present due to the coronavirus, according to American Institute of CPAs spokeswoman Eileen Sherr. Some states don’t have an income tax, but more than two dozen others, including New York and California, which are famously aggressive, are still set to levy taxes on these remote workers for 2020.

Most states offer tax credits to offset income earned in other states avoid double taxation. But these credits might not make the worker whole if the remote work is in a state with higher taxes than the home state. For example, a Seattle employee who works remotely from Oregon during the pandemic and owes Oregon income tax won’t get a credit from Washington, because it doesn’t have an income tax.

Businesses with employees or owners working remotely face further tax headaches. Simply having a worker present in a state can trigger so-called nexus rules that raise state taxes on business as well as personal income.

Out of state or telecommuting employees should talk to their employers about where state taxes are being withheld while they’re working remotely. As arrangements that at first seemed provisional take root, taxpayers should also track days spent working in different states, because auditors often use cell-phone or credit-card records to track movement.

Congress has come up with several possible solutions to this issue, however they seem to have limited traction at the moment. The proposed Multi-State Worker Tax Fairness Act, which has been introduced repeatedly since 2016, limits the ability of states to tax nonresident telecommuters. Alternatively, Senate Republicans’ HEALS Act includes a temporary provision which partially restricts such double taxation through 2024.

With these complex issues in play, we urge you to act soon to see how you may be affected when filing your taxes for 2020.

Talley’s experienced team of tax professionals provides comprehensive tax compliance and consulting services so you can preserve, enhance and pass on to the next generation the assets and wealth that you’ve worked hard to build. We welcome the opportunity to discuss with you the current opportunities available to you. For more information, contact us today.