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A guide to state taxes for non-residents

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

I always try to emphasize the inconsistent nature of contract employment in general, especially in security, and I can’t stress enough that you should always have a backup plan for employment.  Keep all of your state guard or LEO certifications current, even if that means signing up to become a reserve officer with your local PD or SO.  For the unemployed, or even for experienced contractors with a couple months or more to kill between overseas jobs, signing up for hurricane details with companies like G4S or Securigard can be a perfect solution.

                Keep in mind, these aren’t guaranteed jobs either.  Even if you’re “hired” you’ll just be placed on a list of contacts, and only called up for work in the event that a bad storm touches down.  In the event of another Katrina, you’d be guarding private property or relief workers for as long as it takes them to get things in order again.  Could be a couple weeks, could be months or more.  These gigs don’t pay nearly as well as overseas jobs, but since lodging and per diem are almost always included in your salary, you should be able to save up some money while keeping busy and padding your resume.

                But here’s the pitfall that trips up a lot of people:  If your job calls for you to work in one particular state for more than 30 days out of the year, you’re required by law to file a state income tax return there.  It doesn’t matter if you’re not a resident of that state, it doesn’t even matter if you commute across the border each day and don’t ever spend the night.  30 days of work means you should be planning on filing a second state tax return, unless you’re lucky enough to work in a place like Florida that doesn’t have a state income tax.

                I can already hear you screaming now, but hold on a minute.  No, you’re not going to get taxed twice.  Well, probably not.  If you file both returns for your home state and the state you work in, you’ll almost always be able to get a credit back in the amount of one of the states’ income taxes.  BUT, and this is a very BIG BUT, you’ve got to file your returns correctly in order to take advantage of this!  A lot of people don’t bother to file a return in the second state, so when that state government comes calling to collect its past due income tax, plus penalties and late fees of course, it’s too late to get the hook-up.

                Multi-state tax returns aren’t nearly as complex as the foreign earned income exemptions you’ll deal with when working overseas.  A preparer from your local H+R Block or Liberty Tax might be able to handle the job, but why risk it?  Get yourself a qualified independent tax preparer for close to the same price as the big chains, and you won’t have to lose any sleep at night.  My best advice is to ask your buddies for referrals, so you know you’re hiring someone with experience.  And always, save all of your tax paperwork!       

                The point of working stopgap security jobs like hurricane details is to save up a little extra money between longer-term contracts, right?  So don’t make a careless mistake that would wipe out your savings, like improperly filing your taxes…



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