State Tax Snapshot: Are ‘Selfies’ the Latest Weapon in New York’s Residency Wars?

The hip techno blog Mashable rarely devotes space to state tax controversies. But apparently the story of a Philadelphia-based architect’s efforts to avoid being taxed as a New York resident was too cool for the blog to resist.   

The architect learned that to avoid being taxed as a New York City resident he would need to prove that he spent most of the year in Pennsylvania.

To do this, he began taking pictures of himself (“selfies”) in front of his Pennsylvania residence. For good measure, the photos featured him holding a local newspaper and were time-and-date stamped.

Part of the architect’s motivation for taking the “selfies” is that he “likes to play by the rules,” Mashable explains. To his credit, the photos seem to establish that the architect spent at least part of his day in Philadelphia.

But most anyone working in the field of state taxation could tell him that, oftentimes, “the rules” can be as clear as a blurry photograph. Take New York's residency rules for example. “Does one spend a day in New York when there for only a few hours,” asked McDermott Will & Emery LLP’s Maria Eberle in a recent Bloomberg BNA State Tax Insights article. In one case, Eberle notes, New York found that a taxpayer was a statutory resident of New York even though 26 of the 184 days required for residency were days where the taxpayer spent only part of the day in New York. (Matter of Zanetti,DTA No. 824337 (N.Y. Div. Tax App. May 23, 2013); aff'd DTA No. 824337 (N.Y. Tax App. Trib. Feb. 13, 2014).

Continue the discussion on LinkedIn: Is taking “selfies” an effective means of avoiding being classified as a New York resident?

By Steven Roll

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