Life as a military spouse is difficult in many ways. One thing that takes a lot of time and effort and makes life especially difficult is the amount of moving that is required of those in military life. Thankfully, there are some laws in place to help make the life of all military spouses a little bit easier, especially regarding residence, voting, and state taxes.

If you’re wondering what is the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act (MSRRA), then hopefully we can shed some light on this impactful law so you’re able to benefit from it.* Read on to learn more about the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act and what it may be able to do for you. 

What is the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act?

The Servicemember Civil Relief Act was updated by the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act, a federal law passed in 2009  to grant all spouses of military servicemembers equal residency rights. 

According to Military One Source

“In 2009, the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act amended the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act. MSRRA allows military spouses to maintain legal residence in the state where they lived before a permanent change of station move with their active-duty service member. A second amendment to the SCRA, called the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018, provides additional protections and benefits to military spouses.”

This Act permits a servicemember’s spouse to maintain a legal residence in their original state even when they move with their spouse to a new station due to military orders. The MSRRA is designed to make life a little less hectic for the spouses of military members.

For certain servicemembers and their spouses, there are additional reliefs offered by this act. It provides an income tax exemption for spouses of military members as long as certain conditions are met: 

  • The spouse is legally married to the servicemember.
  • The servicemember is on military orders.
  • The spouse is in a new residency specifically to live with the servicemember.

Keep in mind that a military spouse’s income is subject to tax laws in their state of legal residence. The Servicemember Civil Relief Act only covers active-duty servicemembers’ military income, meaning that any other income is taxable by the state in which it is earned.

Maintain Legal Residence Using Military Spouse Residency Relief Act

Everybody has a state in which they are a legal resident. The majority of individuals have their place of residence as their state of legal residence, but when you’re living the military life, relocations are frequent. This can lead military personnel and their families to have some difficulty in determining their state of legal residence. 

The Servicemember Civil Relief Act enables active-duty servicemembers to keep their primary residence where they now call home and the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act helps extend that service to the military member’s spouse.

Military spouses may claim the same state of legal residency as their servicemember thanks to this Act. To be eligible under this act, the following prerequisites must be satisfied:

  • The servicemember is residing in a state other than his or her state of residence under military orders.
  • The spouse is in a new state for the sole purpose of living with the servicemember.
  • The spouse and servicemember live in the same state.

Military Spouse Residency Relief Act FAQs

Do you need to provide proof of residency to declare another state as your legal residency?

Possibly. You may be required to provide records to confirm your residency. These records may include one or multiple of the following:

  • Servicemember military ID card
  • Servicemember Leave and Earnings Statement (LES)
  • Servicemember Form W-2
  • Your driver license
  • Your voting registration
  • Department of Defense — State of Legal Residence Certificate, Form DD 2058, declaration of servicemember’s permanent state of residency
  • Marriage license

Do you need to file any paperwork for the income tax exemption offered by the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act?

Yes. The income tax exemption offered by the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act requires that you file a DE 4. This form is available online for employees and spouses of servicemembers. 

Does the employer or the military spouse need to provide information on legal residence for tax purposes?

The military spouse needs to file all the appropriate tax paperwork for their legal residency and taxes.

How do I vote and pay taxes when using a legal residence?

Military spouses may vote and pay their taxes in their active-duty spouse’s state of legal residence. This is according to the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018.

What does the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act not cover?

This act does not allow military spouses to adopt a legal residence in any state other than their active-duty service members’ legal residence. Military spouses must fulfill all of their unique state’s residency requirements which usually require a physical presence in the state of legal residence. 

There are a lot of laws and benefits in place that can make military life easier. As a military spouse, you should be informed and aware of the programs available, so you can always feel empowered to take advantage of the benefits you feel would enrich life in service.

*The purpose of this blog post is to provide insight into the MSRRA, not to provide financial advice.

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