There’s a noteworthy residency-related Easter egg in the criminal tax fraud indictment against the Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg. The complaint includes the charge that Weisselberg fraudulently failed to file tax returns as a New York City resident, thus evading the municipality’s income tax on the city’s inhabitants. Monetarily, it’s one of the lesser offenses. It isn’t even mentioned in much of the media coverage. But it shines a spotlight on a question that sometimes arises in California residency tax planning: are there criminal tax fraud risks in asserting nonresidency while retaining or establishing significant contacts with California?
The Short Answer
The short answer is no. You would have to blatantly abuse California’s unique system for determining residency status, or commit outright perjury, to incur criminal tax fraud charges for claiming nonresidency. However, the long answer is, while California residency rules aren’t the same as New York’s, the two systems are enough alike that the Weisselberg case may embolden the FTB to think otherwise.
First, the obvious point: the Weisselberg indictment was brought by the State of New York. Accordingly, no matter how the case is resolved, it can’t have a direct precedential impact on the enforcement of California’s residency rules. California draws on its own robust jurisprudence to adjudicate residency tax issues. It rarely needs to look to the outcomes and opinions from out-of-state courts in that regard.