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

Need to file state taxes when you live and work in different states?

Most people in the U.S. live and work in the same state, which makes state taxes pretty easy to understand – you pay taxes to the state where you live and work.

But what if you live in one state and work in another? Do you pay taxes to the state where you live? Where you earn an income? Both?!

You need to pay taxes to both. Most likely you will end up having to file a resident return in the state where you live and a nonresident return in the state where you work.

Resident return

Generally you need to file a resident return in the state where you are a permanent resident. This state has the right to tax ALL of your income, wherever it was earned.

Nonresident return

After you file your resident return in your home state, you then need to go about filing a nonresident return in every other state where you earned money. A nonresident return only taxes you on the money you earned in that state. What often happens is that you withhold some income for each state tax.

Let’s take a real-world example.

Let’s say you live in New Jersey and commute to your NYC job Monday through Friday. Come tax time, you would need to file a resident return in NJ (reporting all of your income) and a nonresident return in NY (reporting only the income you earned in NY).

Worried about being double-taxed? Don’t be. You will have an opportunity to claim a credit for taxes paid to the nonresident state. They will then divide whatever has been withheld between them and the state whose tax liability was not exactly met will either give you a refund or a tax bill.

States without an income tax

There’s always an exception to the rule. In this case, there are seven exceptions. The five states with no income tax and the two states that only tax interest and dividends are the exclusions:

  • Alaska
  • Florida
  • Nevada
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wyoming
  • Tennessee
  • New Hampshire

If you live in one of these states, you don’t need to file a resident return (unless you live in TN or NH and have interest and dividends income). But if you work in a state that does have an income tax you have to file a nonresident return in that state.

The same holds true when the situation is reversed. If you live in a state with an income tax, you must file a resident return there. But if you work in a state without an income tax, you don’t have to worry about filing a nonresident return.

Sound complicated? There’s a reason for that: it is. But let’s not stress because here’s all you really need to know. For this to work, every state needs to make agreements with every other state covering the income they could both theoretically tax. These agreements are structured to generate a minimum amount of paperwork and special cases: instead of having some workers who lives in a state but doesn’t pay taxes, the states have someone who lives in the state and pays taxes like everyone else — but gets a special tax credit at the end of the year.

In a situation like this, it’s often best to talk to your payroll department about how to proceed. In places with many out-of-state commuters (like New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, as well as cities near state borders), they will have the details on how each state treats out-of-state income.

Even if you have to file multiple state tax returns you can take care of them right here on RapidTax.



1,548 Replies to “State Income Tax: Living in One State, Working in Another”

  1. What about working through a vendor (I am W2) but I live in Colorado, work in Oregon and fly out once a month. How are taxes handled?

  2. I live in Washington and work from CA, as a flight attendant, for a TX based company; besides filing a federal return, what state returns do I need to file? I will say, that I lived in WA a few years ago and worked at the same company, and only filed a federal return, and no more…. was I making a mistake then? I always had the understanding that you pay state taxes, based of where you live…. Please clear this up fo me.

  3. Your article says: “Worried about being double-taxed? Don’t be. You will have an opportunity to claim a credit for taxes paid to the nonresident state.” The credit I calculate is extremely small.

    My daughter’s internship was in Virginia. She is a full time Michigan resident. Total income of ~$8,300 was 100% Virginia. Virginia tax totaled ~$283 and Michigan tax $340 with only a $15 credit. Does this sound right?

  4. Hello,
    I live In Wisconsin, near Milwaukee. I do my taxes there since I live with my parents, I am in school. We find it best to do everything together.

    In the summer I go to MI, have a job up there. This last time I did taxes I was confused on why I got nothing in return from that job, However I got tax returns for my state when I worked during school.
    Is there a way that I can not have this happen again? I am a single, college student. I just want to know if I have to fill out the form like you said above, if so do I ask for it?

    Thank you for your help.

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