State Income Taxes

The income tax laws of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia (referred to as the tri-state area) in some ways parallel and in some ways diverge from Federal laws. You may wish to consult the instruction booklets for the state returns that apply to you and contact state taxpayer assistance help lines for more detailed information. This section will provide a general overview of state taxes. In general, students whose income exceeds the allowable standard deduction and exemptions for their state of residence may be required to file a state income tax return. Specific information relating to state taxation in our tri-state area is provided below.

State Residency vs. Nonresidency

The levy of income tax in the tri-state area is based on the location of residence rather than on place (or source) of income received. For example residents of Maryland (MD) and Virginia (VA) who work in DC need to pay only taxes to MD or VA.

All three states have a similar definition of who is a resident. Two tests generally determined residency: (1) actual residency (abode) and (2) legal residency (domicile).

Under the actual residency test, if you live in DC (for 183 days or more) in VA (for more than 183 days) or in MD (for more than six months), then you are a resident of that state. To "live" means to rent an apartment, a dorm or a temporary house. Most students will qualify during most, if not all of their education with GW, as a resident of the state in which they actually live.

It is possible to be a resident of more than one state, such as the state where you live with your parents when you're not in school (your legal residence or domicile) and a resident either in DC, MD, or VA while you are in school (your actual residence or abode). In this case, it is often necessary to file two returns. Check with your home state for its filing requirements.

It may be possible, during a first or last semester at GW, to not meet the residency requirements of one of our three local states. If this is the case and state tax is withheld from your paychecks, you will be able to get the money back by filing a claim for refund on a return of the state where the tax was withheld (i.e., DC, MD or VA).

Under the legal residency test, a student will qualify as a resident of DC, MD or VA when he/she or a household family member has an intention of living in the state permanently or on a long-term basis. Examples of intention include: (a) you have made arrangements with an area company to begin employment in the year of graduation; (b) you have other family members in the area and you really believe that you will stay there after graduation; (c) your parents had a home in DC or VA (at any time during the year) or in MD (on December 31st) and you live with them or lived with them prior to moving to a dorm or to an apartment, or; (d) if you own or owned your home in one of the states. If one of these situations applies, you are a legal (domiciliary) resident of the relevant state. As noted above, it is possible to be a resident of more than one state.

State Filing Requirements

Students who are residents of DC or MD must file a state income tax return, generally by April 15, whenever they are required to file a federal return (or when requesting a refund) even if they are only residents of the state for part of the year. The filing requirements for residents of VA include a gross income threshold, which may be slightly below the federal filing limit. Check with the VA Form 760 or 760-S instructions for details. VA returns are due May 1. VA has a separate form called 760PY for part-year residents while MD and DC ask questions about part year residency on their main tax forms (D-40 for DC and 502 for MD). Part-year residents cannot use the short forms (DC Form D-40EZ and MD Form 503).

In general, the same filing status that was claimed on your federal return, whether single, married filing separately or dependent taxpayer, etc., must also be claimed on your state return (see below for exception). Also, the same number of personal exemptions claimed on the federal return must also, generally, be claimed with the state.