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Recent Tax Court decision could wreak ha

Glover v. Comm, a recent tax court decision, presents several issues to Merchant Mariners. Mr. Glover worked for Reinauer Transportation. His tugs pushed oil coastwise as far as Virginia. The tugs wou

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Recent Tax Court decision could wreak havoc on Mariners

State Taxes and Mariners

Suz asked this question So, what about if you live in one state (TN) and work as a merchant mariner in another state (HI), 45 days on/45 days off rotation? Do you pay HI state taxes, or does the payro

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State Taxes and Mariners

Mariner Tax Update January 2011

E-Filing alert! How many times have you read that mariners cannot E-File? How many websites have posted this. Year after year. And then all of a sudden preparers start proclaiming “mariners can

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Mariner Tax Update January 2011

Employee vs. Non-Employee LLC and S-Corp

I’ve been a client of yours for a few years now and I had a general tax question concerning my wife’s job status. She currently works full time for a marketing firm in “Deleted”

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Employee vs. Non-Employee LLC and S-Corp Planning for Mariners and their families

Maritime Tax Preparers and the Alternati

What they don’t want you to know… This video points out the tremendous effect of the AMT on merchant mariners. Seamen taking business deductions and offsets may very well be realizing litt

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Maritime Tax Preparers and the Alternative Minimum Tax

Mariner Tax Update January 2011

1
by on January 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm

E-Filing alert!

How many times have you read that mariners cannot E-File? How many websites have posted this. Year after year. And then all of a sudden preparers start proclaiming “mariners can now e-file”. But nothing had changed in the law. So why the scuttlebutt?

It’s no surprise that most preparers have come down from the bogus position that merchant mariners cannot electronically file their tax returns. The justifications used over the years have been flimsy and the supporting documentation has been lacking. I actually remember a citation of the IRM (Internal Revenue Manual) to a specific line that stated mariners would have to mail in supporting documentation. I guess they figured no one would ever read the heading that stated these were the procedures for AUDIT AND AMENDMENT and had nothing to do with regular filing.

E-Filing Signature Documents

It’s difficult, I know. You have to get a signed form back to your preparer for them to electronically file you. But it isn’t optional. There could be serious issues with returns being filed without the proper signature documents.

Do not give a preparer signing power

It is a conflict and poor practice. Unless you are physically entering your pin you need to be providing a signature form. These are the rules.

Maguire Taxes

Ebayers Beware

0
by on January 18, 2011 at 11:22 pm

You may be next…

Of the nearly 19 million taxpayers who filed a Schedule C (showing profit or loss from a business) between January and July of 2010, 25% reported a net loss on the form and 65% reported a net profit of less than $25,000. Another 6% reported profit of between $25,001 and $50,000, leaving just 4% with net earnings above $50,000. (A Schedule C listing revenues and expenses is supposed to be attached to the 1040 of taxpayers who operate businesses as unincorporated sole proprietors, including those who are paid by companies as independent contractors and those who sell online through eBay, Amazon.com and other Internet sites.) The big question is are you a hobby?

Uncle Sam Says

The following factors, although not all inclusive, may help you to determine whether your activity is an activity engaged in for profit or a hobby:

  • Does the time and effort put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit?
  • Do you depend on income from the activity?
  • If there are losses, are they due to circumstances beyond your control or did they occur in the start-up phase of the business?
  • Have you changed methods of operation to improve profitability?
  • Do you have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business?
  • Have you made a profit in similar activities in the past?
  • Does the activity make a profit in some years?
  • Do you expect to make a profit in the future from the appreciation of assets used in the activity?

Point being – those extreme losses you’re incurring year after year may be a big indication of your business being a hobby. Keep an eye out for future legislation that may be more aggressive in shifting the burden of “for profit” proof back to the taxpayer.

Top 20 Silly Tax Deductions

0
by on January 6, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Laugh if you like but some were allowed…

  1. Free beer – YES  -  Strange but true. A gas station owner gave his customers free beer in lieu of trading stamps and the Tax Court said yes, this is a legitimate business expense and tax deductible, which makes the next entry even stranger…
  2. Free whisky – NO  -  One gentleman thought a case or two of whisky would make nice client gifts, and thus tried to deduct them on his annual tax return. The category he chose was “meals & entertainment” saying it was for client entertainment. However, not only was it not allowed, it was a gift that violated state laws. Ouch!
  3. Cost of hiring an arsonist – NO  - I suppose hit men are out too? A man with a failing furniture business decided to hire someone to burn it down. The store-owner’s plan was not only to collect the $500,000 insurance money, but also to deduct the $10,000 expenses of hiring the arsonist! He was denied.
  4. Fake Boobs – YES  - This one is infamous. A stripper going by the name of “Chesty Love” used her hard-earned savings to boost the size of her boobs, to the eye-popping size of 56-FF (this is huge by the way and the only time I’ve ever seen boobs this big was on a 6’3″ drag queen in Cleveland and yes, they were actual implants.) She figured it would get her more tips and you guessed it, the write-off was allowed, being considered a stage prop essential to her act. (Imagine the exhibits at that trial)…
  5. Prostitution expenses – NO  - Maybe in Amsterdam or at the Bunny Ranch in Nevada, but you can’t deduct expenses of illegal professions. Trying to deduct 4000 condoms and a case of flavored lube isn’t going to work if you put down “prostitute” as your career. Similarly, drug dealers can’t deduct the cost of baggies or claim the drugs they buy to resell as costs of goods sold.
  6. Cat food – YES  - Junkyard owners set out bowls of pet food nightly to attract wild cats. The wild cats also took care of their nasty snake and rat problem, making the junkyard safer for customers and providing a useful business service. Yep, you guessed it…the pet food is a business expense and was allowed.
  7. Your own racehorse – NO  - I can see how this would be a business expense to some people. But if you just go out and buy your own prize-winning horse, name it after yourself (the ego on some folks) and then take clients out to see your horse run, you cannot deduct this. It’s not a business expense, it’s a personal expense. But hey, if you can afford a racehorse and stables, why are you worried about the deduction in the first place?
  8. A fabulous African Safari – YES  - If the IRS considers a business trip “ordinary and necessary”, you can take it as a deduction. For the owners of a dairy business, this included a wonderful African Safari, because many of the activities on the trip were focused on wild animals.
  9. The costs of moving… the family pet – YES  - Whether you’ve got a Great Dane or a Great White Shark, your pet is considered a personal effect. And that’s great news for you. When it comes to any expenses relating to any kind move associated with a job, Uncle Sam says yes. But I suspect hiring a Hummer Limo to move your gerbil across the state may not be looked upon favorably.
  10. A Trip to Bermuda – YES, YES, YES  - I love this one! ANY business convention held in Bermuda can be written off without even showing there was a special reason to hold your business meeting in paradise. And it’s not the only place. Barbados, Costa Rica, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, Mexico and all U.S. possessions also fall into this special tax treatment. But outside the U.S. is a different story.
  11. Body Oil – YES  - If you’re a regular Joe, body oil is a once in a blue-moon splurge. Maybe something to spice up an evening with your partner, but certainly not a write-off. However, if you’re a pro bodybuilder and need gallons of body oil to make your muscles glisten, then it is a genuine tax write-off. I personally have a few celebrity clients  and these clients deduct their makeup, their facials and occasionally, if they can prove its necessary for a movie or other job, even their nose jobs! Models have similar options with their deductions.
  12. A trip to the Super bowl – NO  - I’d like to put this one in the ‘nice try’ category. Someone decided to take clients and their spouses to the Super bowl, but just could not prove that the shindig was in any way related to business. And even if it was, it’s an extravagant expense for a meeting and would have been disallowed anyway. Sorry bud.
  13. A Private Airplane – YES  - A couple with a rental condo didn’t fancy the hassle of driving up to 7 hours to check on it. They didn’t want to be stuck to the schedule of the only daily flight available. So, they did what you or I would do… they bought their own jet! They were allowed to deduct all expenses on the jet relating to the condo, including the high costs of fuel. That must have been some condo!
  14. A Mink Coat – NO  - fur… it’s so tacky these days. One man tried deducting a mink coat claiming that it was a conversation piece when visiting clients with his wife (what was the topic? tackiness?) Fortunately, he was denied.
  15. Babysitting costs – YES  - Believe it or not, you can deduct the cost of a babysitter as a charitable deduction, if the mother of the child is leaving the house to do volunteer work for a charity. Which, of course, we all do on a daily basis.
  16. A ‘Playmate’ Party – YES  - The owner of a nightclub promotions firm decided that a regular party wasn’t good enough for his clients. So, he brought in a bunch of scantily clad “bunnies” as decoration. The tax man said sure, it’s a valid expense. Whether or not pictures of the bunnies were attached to the return is unknown at this time.
  17. A Nuclear Fallout Shelter – NO  - This one bombed (sorry… bad pun). Yep, way back in the days of the cold war and the threat of nuclear meltdown, one clever man built a nuclear fallout shelter on his property and then decided to list it as “preventative medicine.” The IRS gave that one a big thumbs down. Wow, didn’t see that one coming!
  18. A beautiful swimming pool – YES  - This one’s a great example of lateral thinking. After being told by his doctor that he needed to exercise (after developing emphysema), the smart fella put in a swimming pool. The deduction was put down as a necessary MEDICAL EXPENSE and was allowed, along with the various chemicals, heating, cleaning and general upkeep of the pool. Now that’s using your head.
  19. Dancing lessons – NO  - Dancing With The Stars may be popular, but it’s not going down well with the IRS as the subject of a deduction. You CANNOT take dancing as a deduction for medical expenses, and the following reasons are outlawed – dancing to relive varicose veins, dancing to cure arthritis and finally, dancing to alleviate nervous disorders. Try any of these and you’ll be dancing all the way to the tax courts.
  20. Sperm donation as a loss – NO  - Okay, I saved the best (or worst) one for last. It’s one thing to make a little extra cash as a sperm donor. It’s quite another to try and claim a depletion loss on the aforementioned sperm. Hey, I’m just glad I wasn’t the tax preparer who had to deal with this client. It amazes me every year when I hear the crazy ideas clients have regarding their deductions.

Never dismiss a deduction…

Secret Tax Deductions…

0
by on January 6, 2011 at 6:36 pm

You just never know

Here are three unique deductions you’d think the IRS would laugh at — but instead they approved.

  1. The “significant other” deduction. When a man hired his live-in girlfriend to manage some of his rental properties, the Tax Court allowed him to deduct $2,500 of the $9,000, which he paid her as a business expense. Her duties included finding furniture, overseeing repairs and, of course, running his personal household.
  2. The moving the family pet deduction. Whether your pet is a dog, a bird or even an Oriental Yeti, it’s OK to deduct the cost of moving said pet from your old residence to your new abode if you can pass a couple of simple tests.
  3. The body oil deduction. Just as carpenters can’t be expected to work without their tools, bodybuilders can’t be expected to compete without their … body oil. While the Tax Court balked at letting a pro bodybuilder write off buffalo meat and special vitamin supplements, it did allow him to deduct his ample supply of body oil as a business expense.

Lesson learned…

Never dismiss a deduction, no matter how silly it may seem.

Gambling Income and Various Windfalls

0
by on December 28, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Bite the Bullet?

I remember the night as though it was yesterday. I was in Vegas… At Caesar’s…. I walked up to the slots in the far corner of the casino. I had changed a hundred in quarters (yes, they were still using actual coins then). I was playing 5 coins a pull. A few spins, and nothing…. And then – lights, bells, and excitement… I hit the jackpot…. 10,000 coin payout ($2,500 in cash)…. I was overwhelmed with excitement. But then I had a realization…

It wasn’t the taxes

I realize that would be the conclusion in this forum… But taxes were the furthest from my mind. See I was 18 then. And besides attracting a ton of attention, the high jackpot hits come with a visit from the casino staff. They need to issue a W-2 on the spot. But again… Taxes were the furthest from my mind.

I’d like to say I walked out with the cash… But all they handed me was my 5 quarters back from the winning pull. Lesson learned.

Hindsight

I’ve rarely had the good fortune of a huge payout at the casinos since that day. I’m also more apt to frequent the blackjack and poker tables now a days. But what happens? What can we do when we hit the big jackpot? Several things. Let’s go through a few scenarios.

You won $5,000

Nice… Depending on where you’re gambling they may withhold Federal taxes on the spot. Someone with a $75,000 income won’t be horribly effected by this type of windfall. If you’re already itemizing remember that you can deduct gambling losses up to the extent of winning. I’d figure about a $1,200 Federal tax hit without gambling losses (the State will depend on where you reside). In Massachusetts, 5 cents on the dollar is fair. States like Massachusetts don’t allow you to deduct gambling losses (only the price of the winning ticket), so you will face the tax blow here.

You Won $50,000

This is a slightly different playing field. Clients don’t generally have $50,000 in gambling write offs so it presents a predicament. This will nudge you into another bracket most likely. Probably fair to say about $13,000 in Federal taxes before write offs. The $75,000 baseline income is going to be severely jarred by this increase in income. Odds are that income will not be this high again in the next five years. That makes this is a prime year to allocate offsets and deductions. Several approaches…

  1. Track your gambling. See accepted logging methods later in this article.
  2. Dump a loser – no not the relationship type… If you have stocks with built in losses unload enough to have a $3,000 overall loss. This will help lower the brunt of the tax blow in this uniquely high marginal tax rate.
  3. 401(k)/IRA’s – I’m not the type to jump out of my chair when it comes to for AGI retirement planning. But in this case it is offsetting high bracket income.
  4. Are you already itemized and past the 2% floor? This could be a good year to load up necessary business expenses.
  5. Did you pay the State???? If you’re the type of person who doesn’t pay their State taxes until the following year, think twice… State taxes paid are Deductible!!!! Actually if you overpaid the State it would probably help even more. Just make sure they have the check by Dec 31. Recapture will be in a lower tax bracket – never mind the time savings.
  6. Married? Engaged? Not that this is a SOLE reason to tie the knot, but depending on respective earnings it could certainly lessen the blow.
  7. Got Kids? Want some? I know this sounds off the wall. But perhaps your sister, brother, uncle, or girlfriend who has been living with you brought a few bundles of joy along as room mates. Point being, you might meet all requirements to claim the kids (and relatives for that matter)… If you do, this certainly would be a good year to investigate this.
  8. Do you own a rental property or other passive interest with suspended losses? This might be a good year to sell. When $$$ is too high we have to wait until complete disposition to put the suspended losses on the books. A superheated tax return may be enough of a straw to break that camels back.

What doesn’t help?

Less helpful approaches -

  1. Medical expenses – with a 7.5% floor, you’re most likely not going to be able to recognize any deduction whatsoever.
  2. Partnership and trust hedging… Depending on the bottom line this may or may not be effective. Fact is that as income increases we lose the ability to deduct passive losses. You may well be having suspended losses carrying over to a year when your income and tax bracket are lower. Many of these half cocked ideas come from substance. The problem is that the income has to be within the entity (the books are balanced within the trust, partnership, s-corp, etc….) Otherwise there are too many roadblocks.
  3. And many more – You really need to examine these instances on a case by case basis

You won $1,000,000 +

It does happen! Several clients have won large lump sums… Several have also taken out structured payments (annuities)

Things to remember -

  • Liability protection – with this type of income, a trip to a decent estate planner is warranted. People tend to slip in fall in a millionaires driveway more often than normally. Specific trust and estate planning may shield you from severe liability down the road.
  • Married? Be warned… As the lottery cash payouts exceed the five million mark the percentage of couples who REMAIN married exponentially approaches zero. Wives initiate divorce proceedings on a 2 to 1 ratio.
  • Debating between a lump sum and cash payout? Throw this onto the fire. That annual payment would be considered part of your estate for medicaid purposes. Meaning 20 years from now, the State will take it. I’ve worked with several clients who had their annuities purchased at a large loss.
  • Beware of the propositions… Many companies will pitch you with various tax schemes stating they can substantially reduce your overall liability. These normally turn out to be bogus. The IRS doesn’t care… They will keep you on the hook for the balance due, interest and penalties….

I won a prize?

I had a client who won a lamborghini several years back. Problem is he still doesn’t have it. He won it in Vegas and was required to prepay the taxes before receiving the prize.

  • Remember you can offset these winnings with eligible gambling losses
  • Unless this prize is something you would have purchased regardless, consider a buyout option. You will be paying taxes on the retail version. You may well be better off with an addition on the house as opposed to a helicopter.

Recordkeeping -

We all know about keeping receipts. Gamblers are also permitted to log their gambling activity to account for losses. Keep in mind that these logs are not given Cohen rule leeway and have been historically been scrutinized with a fine tooth comb. Make sure your logs are properly documented according to standards.

Professional Gambler

A possibility. Advantages? You’re able to offset losses above the line on a Schedule C (not subject to limitations). You have to meet profit and business standards. You’re not a pro just because you dropped $20,000 in the casino.

Always keep in mind that the regs change daily. We usually don’t want to think about collateral effects when we have a big win. It’s certainly worth investigating your options – before December 31… After that – all bets are off…

Foreign Earned Income

5
by on December 1, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Mariners and the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

Let’s use an extreme example to get the point across

Joe Sailor. He lives in Singapore. His wife lives there. He owns property in Singapore. He has children in Singapore. He hasn’t been in the US for years. He works for a foreign flagged shipping company. The vessel never enters US waters. It runs from Singapore to South America. He is a US Citizen. Questions are -

  1. Is he required to file a US Income Tax return?
  2. If yes is he able to use the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion on all of his shipping income?

Non Resident Citizens

Yes he HAS to file a non-resident return. He may allocate foreign tax credits for taxes payed to Singapore, but a U.S. Citizen would be required to file a return.

U.S. citizens are generally taxed on their worldwide income unless a specific exclusion applies. Sec. 61(a) (“gross income means all income from whatever source derived”); Cook v. Tait, 265 U.S. 47, 56 (1924); Specking v. Commissioner, 117 T.C. 95, 101-102 (2001), affd. sub nom. Umbach v. Commissioner, 357 F.3d 1108 (10th Cir. 2003), affd. sub nom. Haessly v. Commissioner, 68 Fed. Appx. 44 (9th Cir. 2003).

Income Earned in International Waters – via US Tax Court

Section 911(b)(1)(A) defines an individual’s “foreign
earned income” as “the amount received by such individual from
sources within a foreign country or countries which constitute earned income attributable to services performed by such individual”.

The term “foreign country” when used in a geographical sense includes any territory under the sovereignty of a government other than that of the United States. It includes the territorial waters of the foreign country (determined in accordance with the laws of the United States), the air space over the foreign country, and the seabed and subsoil of those submarine areas which are adjacent to the territorial waters of the foreign country and over which the foreign country has exclusive rights, in accordance with international law, with respect to the exploration and exploitation of natural resources.

Under general principles of international law, international waters are not under the sovereignty of any nation. United States v. Louisiana, 394 U.S. 11, 23 (1969). Thus, international waters are not a “foreign country” for purposes of section 911, and income petitioner earned while traveling in international waters is not “foreign earned income” excludable from gross income. See Plaisance v. United States, 433 F. Supp. 936, 938-939 (E.D. La. 1977).

In Clark v. Comm the petitioner argued that Section 863(c) provides special sourcing rules for certain transportation income when that transportation begins or ends in the United States or one of its possessions. Because U.S. citizens are subject to tax on their worldwide income, sourcing rules are generally not relevant to U.S. citizens. See Great-West Life Assur. Co. v. United States, 230 Ct. Cl. 477, 678 F.2d 180, 183 (1982); sec. 1.1-1(b), Income Tax Regs.

The Court concluded that section 863(d) would require petitioner to include income earned in international waters as income from “ocean activities” sourced in the United States. See Arnett v. Commissioner, 473 F.3d 790, 797 (7th Cir. 2007), affg. 126 T.C. 89 (2006).

They expanded in saying

SEC. 863(d). Source Rules for Space and Certain Ocean Activities.–
(1) In general.–Except as provided in regulations, any income derived from a space or ocean activity–
(A) if derived by a United States person, shall be sourced in the United States ** *
*******
(2) Space or ocean activity.–For purposes of paragraph (1)–
(A) In general.–The term “space or ocean activity” means–
*******
(ii) any activity conducted on or under water not within the jurisdiction (as recognized by the United States) of a foreign country, possession of the United States, or the United States.
*******
(B) Exception for certain activities.– The term “space or ocean activity” shall not include–
(i) any activity giving rise to transportation income (as defined in section 863(c))
For purposes of the Internal Revenue Code, the definition of “United States person” includes any citizen of the United States. Sec. 7701(a)(30)(A). Although he resides in Scotland, petitioner is a U.S. citizen. His income earned in international waters is income from a “space or ocean activity” as defined in section 863(d)(2). Thus, that income is sourced in the United States. Sec. 863(d)(1)(A).

Bottom line – Income from International waters is considered sourced to the U.S

I’m sure we’ll receive a comment along the lines of “But I have a friend I ship with who lives in Singapore and he doesn’t HAVE to pay U.S. taxes… WRONG… The correct thing to say is that he DOESN’T pay U.S. taxes. It’s difficult to track foreign income. It’s difficult to examine all tax returns for invalid exclusions and deductions. This DOES NOT mean that you’re right. It means you haven’t been caught – yet… No one can know if you’ll be audited or not. But professionals need to be duly informed and provide advice and guidance within the law. Too many preparers play the statistical audit game. Assuming they will lose x percent of client because of audits annually.

Bottom line – income earned by U.S. Citizens in international waters is considered U.S. Source Income. Period…

How Do I Change My Residence?

2
by on November 5, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Should I move to a no-tax State

This is one of my favorites. It’s certainly something that’s worth considering. But it isn’t necessarily cut and dry. There are additional factors you should consider.

Moving Issues

  1. Do I want to move? Honestly this plays a big part. If you’re going to pick up and move for the sole purpose of tax benefits, it may well be a short lived venture.
  2. What is the cost of living where I’m moving to? Property taxes, transportation, utilities and such can suppress the tax benefit derived from moving.
  3. What is my current state tax burden? Ask your tax advisor to explain your current and projected recognized state income.

When Does Changing Residence Make The Most Sense?

I would say a target area for moving would be someone who is a New York City Resident. They are paying both State and City income taxes. My personal issue with this is if you’re shipping out, you’re not enjoying the benefits of being a city resident year round. You’re paying a premium. Half of the year you’re standing watch.

Other States such as California and Maine have aggressive tax rates (especially for Upper Middle Class earners). A residence change could eliminate an aggressive tax burden. In dollars and cents a mariner earning $120,000 could save upwards of $10,000 annually if they move from a high tax State to a tax free State.

More Fuel For The Fire

Family considerations will be a factor as well. Do you live in a State where your kids will receive tuition discounts for college if they are in State residents? Do they receive better consideration for admission? Where does your spouse work? Will this fit into the equation? Are you considering transitioning to a shore side position in the future? How is the job market in the State you are considering moving to?

Drivers License To Prove Residence?

Stay away from snake oil salesmen! Residence is uniquely defined by each State individually. But there’s one common trait. You need to RESIDE in the State in order to be a Resident. Not to be all inclusive – here are some factors considered

  1. When you get off of the vessel, where do you go first?
  2. Where do you own property?
  3. Where have you signed leases?
  4. Where is your family and ties?
  5. Where are your bank accounts, management accounts?
  6. Where are you registered to vote?
  7. Where are your vehicles insured?
  8. Where do you spend your time when you’re not working?

Not an absolute list. But it gives an idea. If your prior State comes looking asserting you are still a resident, the burden is on you to demonstrate otherwise. With the poor economy, States are feeling the blow as well. They are less likely to be agreeable with uncertainty.

Moderation is generally a good approach. Before leaping to another State of residence, examine the benefits. Be sure to see if there are actions you can take in your current State of residence to lower the tax burden. In some cases, moving 1 mile within the same State can save thousands.

Do Mariners Pay State Taxes?

2
by on November 5, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Does Residence Determine Liability?

First, let’s start with the basics. If you weren’t working as a Merchant Seaman and you worked in a State, you would be liable for State income taxes to the state you worked in.

Say Billy is a plumber. He lives in Massachusetts and works in Rhode Island. He would file and pay taxes to Rhode Island as a non-resident.

Does Billy Get Taxed Twice Then?

Usually not. Your State of residence generally allows a credit for taxes paid to another State. There’s two instances where this could be an issue.

  1. You live in New Hampshire and work in Massachusetts. You would pay Massachusetts income taxes as a non-resident. You wouldn’t be able to deduct the taxes paid in New Hampshire as that State has NO income tax.
  2. You live in a State with a lower tax rate than the State you work in. Generally your credit can only equal the amount that would have been due in your State of residence.

Then why aren’t mariners taxed this way?

Understand it isn’t because you have a Z-Card. It is because of the nature of your employment. When we dive into USCS Section 46 we find a section that specifically addresses the State taxation of mariners.

(a) Withholding.– Wages due or accruing to a master or seaman on a vessel in the foreign, coastwise, intercoastal, interstate, or noncontiguous trade or an individual employed on a fishing vessel or any fish processing vessel may not be withheld under the tax laws of a State or a political subdivision of a State. However, this section does not prohibit withholding wages of a seaman on a vessel in the coastwise trade between ports in the same State if the withholding is under a voluntary agreement between the seaman and the employer of the seaman.

(b) Liability.–

(1) Limitation on jurisdiction to tax.– An individual to whom this subsection applies is not subject to the income tax laws of a State or political subdivision of a State, other than the State and political subdivision in which the individual resides, with respect to compensation for the performance of duties described in paragraph (2).
(2) Application.– This subsection applies to an individual–

(A) engaged on a vessel to perform assigned duties in more than one State as a pilot licensed under section 7101 of this title or licensed or authorized under the laws of a State; or
(B) who performs regularly-assigned duties while engaged as a master, officer, or crewman on a vessel operating on the navigable waters of more than one State.

So Mariners pay their State of residence?

Usually, yes. Foreign articles are rarely an issue. Coastal Voyages meet criteria as well. There’s a few instances where there can be an issue.

  1. You work on a harbor tug. It never leaves the harbor of a city. It is not engaged in interstate transport.
  2. You work on a ferry that never completes a foreign voyage and stays in one state.
  3. You work on a drill platform that does not constitute a foreign voyage.

By definition, these can cause issues in determining exemption from liability. Maritime professionals working in the Gulf of Mexico should also be aware that the Gulf Zone Opportunities Act may provide additional aid in obtaining specific tax status.