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This year I have a somewhat tricky situation for state income tax filing (US). I am a professor at a university in Colorado, but I'm spending the academic year in Connecticut on sabbatical leave, working on research projects here. I continue to receive a salary from my university in CO. I have moved out of my (rented) residence in CO, but will return there in mid-2020. I was required to get a driver's license and auto registration in CT.

My current understanding is that I must file 2019 income tax returns in both states, as a resident in CO and as a non-resident in CT, and that my salary during my sabbatical will be considered CT-source income, since I am "performing services" in CT. I am trying to figure out what resources can help me confirm whether this is correct. I have read the basic websites from both states (CO, CT) but I am still unsure about the definitions of certain terms, or how they apply in my case: "domicile", "legal residence", "business conducted", and so. I also don't know whether there may be important exceptions not mentioned there.

So my questions are:

  • Are there other authoritative sources of information that can help me resolve these questions?

  • Is there a way to get an "official" ruling on these questions from the two states before filing my taxes, or do I just have to take my best guess (possibly with professional advice) and hope that it holds up if I am audited?

  • I usually prepare my taxes by myself (without software), but is this something that really requires professional advice? If so, at what level? Consumer tax software, storefront tax prep firms, professional accountant, tax attorney, ...?

  • If so, can I expect to find a single advisor who can help me with both state returns, or should I consult a different advisor in each state?

  • Is there any special evidence or documentation regarding residency that I should collect in case I am audited by either state?

Please note that I am not asking anyone here to tell me whether my current understanding is right, or how I should file. With all due respect, you're not my accountant. Again, I'm looking for pointers to resources that will help me educate myself. (Also, that way an answer will be useful to more people than just me.)

  • I was required to get a driver's license and auto registration in CT. Why? The act of doing things such as registering a car, and getting a drivers license tells the new state that you are now a resident. – mhoran_psprep Dec 16 '19 at 16:18
  • "since I am "performing services" in CT." Is your salary being provided in exchange for those services? – Acccumulation Dec 16 '19 at 18:50
  • @mhoran_psprep: The Connecticut DMV told me that since I would be in the state more than 60 days, I had to transfer my license and registration, notwithstanding the fact that I do not intend to make CT my permanent home. – Nate Eldredge Dec 16 '19 at 19:03
  • @Acccumulation: That's a good question. Given that I agreed to do a specific set of things as a condition of being granted the leave, it seems to me that I am. But I don't know what other factors might be relevant in making that determination. – Nate Eldredge Dec 16 '19 at 19:08
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In general, professors on sabbatical are not rendering any services to the institutions hosting them; the services, if any, are being provided to the home institution. Working on a research project at the host institution is not what is giving you the salary; you would have gotten the same money if you had just shut the door to the office provided to you in Connecticut and did extensive reading to launch a research project in a new area of research for you, or, for that matter simply sat in your office and twiddled your thumbs. Of course, in the last case, you would likely not be invited back for your next sabbatical.

  • I agree that I am providing services to my home institution (not to the host) and being paid for it (by my home institution in CO). But those services are being performed in CT. My understanding is that this makes it CT-source income, even though the employer is in another state. – Nate Eldredge Dec 16 '19 at 0:33
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    Or are you suggesting that this is just paid leave, and that I am not really being paid to perform services at all? I guess that's a possible interpretation, and it is called "leave". But I had to submit a detailed plan of activities for the sabbatical (which are the same sort of research that I'm normally paid to do), and my home university clearly expects me to carry them out - it will be a consideration on my performance evaluations. So it seems to me that regardless of what it's called, my home university is giving me money in exchange for specific services. – Nate Eldredge Dec 16 '19 at 0:44
  • "a period of paid leave" is the common definition of sabbatical. If you happen to do something useful during that time, that would be above and beyond the actual requirement, so that would of course affect your performance rating. – Ray Butterworth Dec 16 '19 at 14:22
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    Anyhow, this really doesn't answer any of my questions - I'm not looking for tax advice from anyone here as to how I should file (I know you are not my accountant), but rather for pointers to authoritative resources. – Nate Eldredge Dec 16 '19 at 15:34

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