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I read on Page 4 of FTB Pub. 1031 2019 (mirror) (I italicized the important passages):

[Section E:] Who Are Residents and Nonresidents

A resident is any individual who meets any of the following:

  • Present in California for other than a temporary or transitory purpose.
  • Domiciled in California, but outside California for a temporary or transitory purpose. See Section L, Meaning of Domicile.

A nonresident is any individual who is not a resident.

A part-year resident is any individual who is a California resident for part of the year and a nonresident for part of the year.

and:

[Section L:] Meaning of Domicile

Domicile is defined for tax purposes as the place where you voluntarily establish yourself and family, not merely for a special or limited purpose, but with a present intention of making it your true, fixed, permanent home and principal establishment. It is the place where, whenever you are absent, you intend to return. The maintenance of a marital abode in California is a significant factor in establishing domicile in California.

This means that an individual who hasn't been in California in 2019 but is domiciled in California throughout 2019 is a California tax resident.

At the same time, according to https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/substantial-presence-test (mirror):

You will be considered a United States resident for tax purposes if you meet the substantial presence test for the calendar year. To meet this test, you must be physically present in the United States (U.S.) on at least:

  1. 31 days during the current year, and
  2. 183 days during the 3-year period that includes the current year and the 2 years immediately before that, counting:
  3. All the days you were present in the current year, and
  4. 1/3 of the days you were present in the first year before the current year, and
  5. 1/6 of the days you were present in the second year before the current year.

This means that an individual who has been in the US in 2019 for fewer than 31 days is not a 2020 US tax resident. (similarly, if the individual has been in the US for 121 days in 2017, 121 days in 2018, and 121 days in 2019, they also won't be regarded as a US tax resident).

Does this means one can be a California tax resident while not being a US tax resident, or did miss something?

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    Also note that California FTB Pub 1031 Section K appears to address the incongruity of paying State but not Federal taxes. – Morrison Chang Aug 1 at 21:59
  • @MorrisonChang Thanks, I'm interested on both US citizens and resident aliens (green card holders). Good catch, section K seems to confirm one can be a California tax resident while not being a US tax resident : "you may have a California income tax filing requirement even if you do not have a federal filing requirement". – Franck Dernoncourt Aug 2 at 1:22

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