If you live in California, you probably know how aggressive California’s state tax agency can be. In fact, even if you live somewhere else, you might have heard of the Golden State’s aggressive tax rules. Buy a vacation home in California, and stay a little too long? Come into the state and do some work for your non-California employer? Travel to California trying to sell some products or collect data that you’ll use out of state when you get back home?
Any of these things and many others can pique the interest of California’s tax collection agency, the Franchise Tax Board. In fact, it can feel like just about any connection to California can be enough to at least raise tax issues. Of course, being a California resident and then moving away has its own set of tax issues. The thought of leaving California over taxes is nothing new. California’s tough Franchise Tax Board (FTB) polices the line between residents and non-residents, and does so rigorously. If you leave, California is likely to probe how and when you stopped being a resident. For that reason, even if you think your facts are not controversial, be careful. California is known to chase people who leave, and to disagree about whether they really are non-residents. After all, California’s 13.3% tax on capital gains inspires plenty of tax moves.
Even where California agrees that you moved, they might not agree when you moved. Say you move from California to Texas and then sell your appreciated stock or bitcoin. California might agree that you moved, but might say you didn’t actually establish residency in Texas and depart California for tax purposes until several months later. That might be enough to make all your sales California source income. It can make you wonder whether California will ‘let’ you move states! Some people seek to avoid California taxes with trusts.
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