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I am a software engineer. I have the ability to write software in my mind without a computer. It's probably an advantage provided by my autism. There were a few times the code of an application showed up in my dreams and I was able to work on required improvements while asleep in my dream state. So that I would key in the code changes when I wake up in the morning. Sometimes, I put myself to sleep by working on mentally intensive problems in my mind, which is effective.

My husband and I drive from Florida to Maine and back a couple times a year. We are legal residents of Florida. For the sum total of four months we spend in Maine, I direct the payroll people to deduct my salary for Maine state taxes. My work is for a manufacturer in WA state.

This question pertains to my tax liability while driving through states like New Jersey.

I have three questions, one leading to the next.

  1. If we stopped for a couple days in NJ and worked on my company laptop 8 hours for one of the days and because our full year income exceeds $20k, I am afraid I would have to file NJ state income tax even for that one day. Should we stop in NY instead for me to work full-time one of the days without needing to file state taxes?

  2. What if I did all my work in NJ mentally and then spent an hour the next day in NY to key the code changes into my laptop? Am I considered having worked a day in NJ? If we were to drive through NJ for a few hours and while my husband drives, should I ensure my mind do not perform any software coding while passing through NJ to avoid having to file NJ income tax?

  3. Perhaps the consensus is - don't ask don't tell. If I don't consider I was working mentally in NJ and I did not whip out my cell phone to key in my code -I am legally not working in NJ. The followup to that would be - what if one day in near future, I get an implant in my brain that allows me to be fully connected. Does this mean that under that situation and being a resident of FL, I would be able to work 180 days outside of FL and since all my work is done mentally- I can profess I was not actually working in any of the states outside of FL and therefore not have to file any state income taxes. Do you agree?

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    no one including the government cares if your work is all in your mind or all via your muscles. They care if you earn money while you are in the state. But this is specific legal advice and is not appropriate for this site.
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Apr 8 at 13:47
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    But the question can be easily resolved without giving any specific legal advice, as the first part of your comment and ohwilleke's answer demonstrates. Commented Apr 8 at 19:27

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State taxes are normally owed in your state of residence allocated by days of residency in each state, and sometimes where your official workplace like an office or a baseball stadium is located.

Whether it is in your head or not, the tax system doesn't even try to tax the work done by people who are traveling in the state where the work is actually done. For example, if I am an attorney or a professional knitter and do work on a flight form Portland, Maine to San Diego, California crossing many states over several hours, the tax system doesn't even attempt to tax that. On the other hand, if you were working from a vacation house in Lake Tahoe for continuous month, California would have a claim to impose state taxes on you in that context.

If you are self-employed, there is a formula for allocating state taxation, developed via interstate compact, that considers where you employees, sales, and business assets are located.

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    Similarly, many years ago my employer sent me to another state for 3 weeks of training. I was paid for my training time, but I didn't have to file income tax in that state.
    – Barmar
    Commented Apr 8 at 21:32

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