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New Law Affects Military Spouse Voting, Taxes, and Licensure

Military spouses now can choose to take their servicemember's state of legal residency without having physical presence in the state, thanks to a law signed by the president on New Year's Eve.

The Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018, sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), rolled together a number of individual bills that had been referred to the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees, including H.R. 282 - the Military Residency Choice Act, which was introduced by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) in January 2017.

MOAA has supported this provision since its inception, actively educating members of Congress and government officials on the benefits of such a law. In March, MOAA submitted a statement for the record to the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees outlining our support for the then-bill.

Previously, only military spouses who shared the same state of legal residence with their servicemember were protected from changing their residency every PCS. The new law allows for military spouses to take their servicemember spouse's state of legal residency for voting and tax purposes regardless of their date of marriage and physical location - essentially inheriting their servicemember's residency, if they so choose.

Not only does this law benefit military spouses for tax and voting purposes, but it is useful for military spouses who have occupations that require state licenses. Changing state residency every PCS means that spouses have to change their state license to match their new residence. The cost and time to complete relicensing negatively impacts the employability of a military spouse. Allowing a spouse to maintain one residence during their servicemember's time in the military prevents the headache of getting relicensed and makes it easier to operate within interstate compacts for occupational licensure.

In her testimony to the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, Stefanik emphasizes the importance of this change: “Military spouses serve too, and this piece of legislation eliminates the daunting task of documenting multiple tax jurisdictions, which at times causes some spouses to forego the complication of working altogether. … This common-sense legislation will make this easier for military spouses to work, and help reduce instances of military spousal unemployment.”


Here is the full bill

https://www.veterans.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/S.2248 Bill Text.pdf
SEC. 302. RESIDENCE OF SPOUSES OF SERVICEMEMBERS FOR TAX PURPOSES.
(a) RESIDENCE FOR TAX PURPOSES.—Section 511(a)(2) of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (50 U.S.C. 4001(a)(2)) is amended—
(1) by striking ‘‘A spouse’’ and inserting the following:
‘‘(A) IN GENERAL.—A spouse’’; and
(2) by adding at the end the following new sub24 paragraph:
‘‘(B) ELECTION.—For any taxable year of the marriage, the spouse of a servicemember may elect to use the same residence for pur4 poses of taxation as the servicemember regardless of the date on which the marriage of the spouse and the servicemember occurred.’’.
(b) APPLICABILITY.—The amendments made by sub8 section (a) shall apply with respect to any return of State or local income tax filed for any taxable year beginning with the taxable year that includes the date of the enactment of this Act.
SEC. 303. RESIDENCE OF SPOUSES OF SERVICEMEMBERS FOR VOTING.
(a) IN GENERAL.—Section 705(b) of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (50 U.S.C. 4025(b)) is amended—
(1) by striking ‘‘State or local office’’ and all that follows through the period at the end of para19 graph (3) and inserting ‘‘State or local office—’’; and
(2) by adding at the end the following new paragraphs:
‘‘(1) a person who is absent from a State be24 cause the person is accompanying the person’s
25 spouse who is absent from that same State in compliance with military or naval orders shall not, solely by reason of that absence—
‘‘(A) be deemed to have lost a residence or domicile in that State, without regard to whether or not the person intends to return to that State;
‘‘(B) be deemed to have acquired a residence or domicile in any other State; or
‘‘(C) be deemed to have become a resident in or a resident of any other State; and
‘‘(2) the spouse of a servicemember may elect to use the same residence as the servicemember regardless of the date on which the marriage of the spouse and the servicemember occurred.’’.
(b) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The amendments made by subsection (a) shall take effect on the date that is 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.
 

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