When Work Means Taxes in Multiple States

I myself interned in three different states before taking a full-time job in a fourth!

For many young engineers, internships take them outside their home state, scattering them east, west, north, and south to jobs all over the nation. The summer passes, the school year begins, and pretty soon it’s time to file taxes. What do you do?! You might live in one state, go to school in a second, and work in yet a third state! Does that make you a part-time resident? Do you have to pay double taxes? And once you graduate, maybe you’re moving all over the country for full-time work. What then?

Take a deep breath. As I’ve said before on this blog, taxes are not scary, even when things get a little complicated. I’m speaking from experience as someone who actually messed up her state taxes quite badly the first time I had to file taxes for an internship. I’ll walk you through what I consider to be some of the most common scenarios and help you figure out what you need to do, that way you can avoid making all the mistakes I did.

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Triumph Over Taxes

Don't be afraid of your taxes!
Don’t be afraid of your taxes!

Most of the tech-savvy people I know aren’t afraid of a little math. But when that math is on IRS Form 1040, they are suddenly TERRIFIED! What they don’t realize is that they already have the skills they need to triumph over their taxes.

  • Like programming, you can always Google your problems. StackOverflow might not cover tax topics, but there are similar Q&A forums all over the internet for filling out IRS forms
  • The hardest math on IRS forms is multiplication and division. Seriously, if you made it through grade school, you’ll be fine.
  • Someone else already wrote the tools you need to get your result. While it is good to learn to do taxes by hand (which I will detail later in the post), tax software is made to be easy to understand even for the slowest among us.

Taxes are not scary, and you will save a lot of money by doing yours yourself, and learning the ins and outs of some of the laws most relevant to you. Most engineers have really simple taxes for the first few years of working. Even as things get more complex (you buy a house, you sell your RSUs, you participate in ESPP, and so on), it’s nothing you can’t handle.

A common fallacy is that having a “tax man” will help you get the most out of your taxes. For someone with an incredibly complicated estate, that might be the case, but for most normal people, the most you need is a little software to help you out (and the wonderful advice of this blog!). I’ll dedicate the rest of this post to introducing you to your taxes. You two should get to know each other–as the old joke goes, aside from death, taxes are the one thing you’ll surely have to deal with in life.

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