Paul L. Caron

Sunday, November 3, 2019

NY Times: The Next Trump Legal Battle — Claiming Florida As His Legal Residence; 'It’s Hard For Mr. New York to Disavow His Residency'

New York Times, Can Trump Avoid Taxes by Leaving New York? It’s Not So Simple.:

Like a long line of other wealthy New Yorkers, President Trump has decided to establish his legal residence in Florida, apparently at least in part to save money on his taxes.

But changing one’s legal home is not so simple.

New York State has a platoon of state auditors who zealously examine whether people are trying to skirt paying its state and local taxes by improperly claiming that they live elsewhere.

Those officials regularly face off against an industry of accountants and lawyers who specialize in tax avoidance strategies.

Under state law, taxpayers who spend 184 days a year in New York — more than half the year — have to pay state taxes on all of their income. But even if a person does spend most of the year out of state, that is not enough.

Tax experts say that convincing auditors that a taxpayer has gone from being a New Yorker to being a Floridian involves more than filing a “declaration of domicile” form, as Mr. Trump and Melania Trump, the first lady, did in Palm Beach County Circuit Court in September.

Florida is one of the few states with no state or local income taxes and has long been a preferred destination for wealthy New Yorkers looking to lower their tax bills. But Mark S. Klein, the chairman of the law firm Hodgson Russ, said New York “made it very clear at least a dozen years ago that filling out pieces of paper does not change your domicile.”

New York has a multipart test that takes in everything from where a taxpayer’s family is to where he or she keeps “items near and dear,” like family heirlooms. Auditors also examine whether a taxpayer continues to maintain a business in New York. ...

There are seemingly reams of rules and endless ways in which taxpayers can be tripped up.

Nishant Mittal, a co-founder of Monaeo, which offers an app to help wealthy people keep track of their whereabouts for tax purposes, said New York had conducted an average of 3,024 nonresidency audits a year between 2010 and 2017. He said the audits had yielded about $1 billion for the state. ...

Barry H. Horowitz, a state and local tax partner in the accounting firm of Withum, said New York had been aggressive about auditing taxpayers who left the state — or claimed, for tax purposes, that they had. “New York’s going to fight you 100 percent on this,” Mr. Horowitz said. “They audit basically 100 percent of the returns for change of residence. Of every client I’ve handled who changed residency, they’ve all been audited.” He said he had dealt with “800-plus audits.” ...

"He’s Mr. New York. It’s hard for Mr. New York to disavow his residency. It’s not insurmountable, but he’s associated with New York.”

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