People often choose to relocate from one state to another. This may occur for a variety of reasons – a new job, a desire to retire to a warmer climate, or a desire to live in a state without local income or estate taxes. Although relocating is relatively easy, determining domicile can be tricky.
In order for a person to establish domicile within a particular state, that person must combine actual residence with the intention of making the new state the person’s permanent home.
Determining intent tends to be where most controversy arises. Taxpayers are often surprised to learn that the courts may disagree with the taxpayer’s assessment of domicile. In determining intent, courts consider many factors. Therefore, it is important to act affirmatively in demonstrating your intent.
Executing a declaration of domicile, changing voter registration, updating addresses for tax filing and professional memberships, and executing new estate planning documents can all be evidence of intent. Sometimes, however, it’s the small things that get the court’s attention. Recently, Gregory Blatt, former CEO of Match.com, moved from New York to Dallas. New York’s taxing authority determined that Blatt had never relinquished his residency there and assessed a tax deficiency for New York income taxes of more than $400,000. The court conducted a deep dive into Blatt’s personal life, including a review of his real estate ownership, dating relationships, and restaurant choices in Dallas. Ultimately, the court determined that Blatt was a resident of Texas. What tipped the balance of the court’s analysis in Blatt’s favor? Where he kept his dog.
The court stated, “Petitioner’s dog, which he had rescued from the ASPCA, was a large, senior dog. Petitioner believed that moving her to Texas was a serious undertaking … As borne out by the evidence in this case, petitioner’s dog was his near and dear item which reflected his ultimate change in domicile to Dallas.”
Decisions like these drive home the fact that when changing your domicile to another state, especially when doing so for tax reasons, you must minimize the chance that anyone could misunderstand your intentions. While conventional wisdom says that home is where the heart is, the courts say home is where your intent is, and that’s probably where your dog is too.