South Carolina Issues Helpful Guidance for Determining Domicile

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By: Jess Johannesen, SALT Senior Manager

At a glance

  • The main takeaway: Changing the state that you call “home” for income tax purposes isn’t as easy as getting a new driver’s license or updating your mailing address.
  • Impact on your business: In states with limited guidance, taxpayers can use the South Carolina Department of Revenue’s recent publication on the matter as a goalpost for determining how their state may analyze domicile.
  • Next steps: Aprio’s State and Local Tax (SALT) team provides the expertise to ensure that your domicile status is not successfully challenged from a tax perspective.

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The full story:

One outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the growth of the mobile workforce, as many individuals realized they were not necessarily required to reside near their employers’ work locations.

What may have started out as a temporary move, perhaps to the beach or a new city, may be turning into a more permanent relocation. This can create issues for state income tax purposes, as remote workers reassess their state residency status.

South Carolina case study: Tax implications of remote work

In most states, an individual may be a resident of a state for income tax purposes in two ways: First, the individual can be a “statutory resident,” which states typically define to mean spending more than 183 days of the year in the state while maintaining a “permanent place of abode” in such state.[1] Alternatively, the individual can be domiciled in the state, which is more of a subjective analysis focused on what they consider to be their “home.”

The South Carolina Department of Revenue (the Department) recently issued a publication which details how the state determines a taxpayer’s domicile.[2] The publication summarizes a couple of key principles of domicile that are generally applied by other states as well. First, a person can only have one domicile at a time, but a person may have more than one residence at a time (such as a rental home or vacation home). Second, a person maintains their domicile until they establish or acquire a new one, and a person’s domicile is not always the state where they are living today.

While “domicile” is not defined in South Carolina’s income tax statutes, state case law has developed the meaning of the term over time. The Department considers an individual to be domiciled in South Carolina if they have: (1) the intention to maintain South Carolina as their permanent or indefinite home, and (2) the intention to return to South Carolina when away. This overarching principle of intent broadly applies to the theory that many states use to identify a taxpayer’s domicile. However, states may vary with respect to how they subjectively evaluate a person’s intent.

In this publication, the Department explains that evidence of a person’s intent includes their express statements and conduct. However, when a person’s intent and conduct are inconsistent, their actions may be more telling as to their true intent. The publication outlines several factors as examples of conduct that may be indicative of an individual’s intent:

  • Property: Address listed on legal documentation; location of residences; location of owned or rented real estate, businesses or vehicles; and qualification for property tax reduction based on primary residence designation (e.g., homestead exemptions).
  • Employment and financial information: Location of employment; whether income taxes dependent on domicile have been paid in the state the person claims domicile; address listed on tax returns; address listed on bank statements, bills and tax notices; and location of bank accounts.
  • Licenses and registrations: Place registered to vote; address on vehicle registration; address on driver’s license; and location of professional or trade licenses.
  • Family: Where the person’s spouse and other family members reside; location claimed to be the domicile in prior years; and if claimed by another as a dependent, the state where that person resides.
  • Affiliations: Location of civic ties; place of worship; location of social memberships; maintaining public library cards or other privileges requiring residency; business connections and relationships; and location of professional services used (e.g., doctors, lawyers, etc.).

While no single factor determines a person’s domicile, the above factors are considered in totality when comparing the time spent in multiple states, the types of activities engaged by the taxpayer in the states at issue, and on the connections that the taxpayer retains with the original state of domicile.

Finally, once domicile is established, it remains until the person establishes a new domicile in another state or country, as determined by the original domicile state.[3] A domicile is not lost merely by an absence from the domicile for months or even years; for example, taking a new role in your company that requires you to relocate overseas or to a new state for a set period of time may not cause a change in domicile if there is still an intention to return.

The bottom line

The Department’s publication provides a helpful summary of the factors that South Carolina — and perhaps other states — may consider when evaluating a person’s domicile. If you are looking to move or have already moved and want to evaluate your domicile status, Aprio’s SALT team can assist you with these issues to ensure that your domicile status is not successfully challenged.

We constantly monitor these and other important state tax topics, and we will include any significant developments in future issues of the Aprio SALT Newsletter.

Contact Jess Johannesen, SALT Senior Manager, at jess.johannesen@aprio.com or  Jeff Glickman, partner-in-charge of Aprio’s SALT practice, at jeff.glickman@aprio.com for more information.

This article was featured in the August 2021 SALT newsletter.

[1] For an example of a case where taxpayers were deemed to be statutory residents, please refer to our article from the March 2021 SALT Newsletter.

[2] “A Guide to Determining a Taxpayer’s Domicile for Income Tax Purposes,” South Carolina Department of Revenue, June 2021. It is worth noting that South Carolina does not employ a specific 183-day rule.

[3] In an article from our June 2021 SALT Newsletter, we summarized a California case addressing whether a couple’s actions established that they had abandoned their California domicile.

Disclosure

Any tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or under any state or local tax law or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions regarding the matter.

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