You got the job – now what?
You nailed the interview and you got the job…Congrats! So now what? As a military spouse, there are a few things you should consider during your on-boarding process to protect yourself and also reap some key benefits.
I preface this by saying I am NOT an HR professional or retirement planner, so I am not intimately versed in employment law and policy. However, I will say that unless you live in an area with a high concentration of working military spouses, or your organization has employed a military spouse before, your HR partner may not be familiar with some of this information. It is your role to advocate for yourself and help educate your employer – so do your research and make sure you are getting the most of your benefits.
Understand your rights under MSRAA
With so many frequent moves, I always list my in-laws’ home as my permanent address on anything important. Why might you ask? Well, I’m always nervous that I will forget to update my address in the midst of the next moving craziness, but listing my home of record as my permanent address also results in some major tax savings for me. The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act (MSRRA) grants military spouses – who were married prior to their spouse joining the military – the right to continue paying income tax in their home of record state, rather than the state where they are currently based and in which the income was earned.
Having grown-up and gone to school in Florida, our home of record is in Florida, one of the wonderful states with no income tax! Thus, when I began working in California – the state with the highest income tax – I made sure my employer understood my rights under the MSRRA to ensure that I did not pay CA income tax. In California, this included submitting a completed Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate (DE4) to my employer and ultimately the state.
With one employer it took quite a few emails between myself, my HR partner, and our benefits team to understand the necessary steps as we were all new to this process… but it was worth the work – a few thousand dollars in tax savings!
Please note that the MSRRA is confusing and can be hard to interpret, and even professional tax accountants may not be versed in the details. Therefore, it helps to seek guidance from the available free legal and tax services on your base for clarifications and questions. Also do some preliminary internet research to understand any forms that may need to be completed for your current state (a quick Google search for “MSRRA & income tax” usually works for me!)