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When It Comes to Taxes, Being Tracked Can Be a Good Thing

This article is part of our new series, Currents, which examines how rapid advances in technology are transforming our lives. Two months ago, Jeff Sheu, a private equity executive, moved from San Francisco, where he had lived for close to 20 years, to Summerlin, a Las Vegas suburb. During the stay-at-home period of the pandemic, he realized he no longer needed to be in a city where the property was expensive, taxes were high, and his quality of life, now that he was married with a small child, had changed.

And with vaccinations available and business travel resuming, he could live somewhere he liked as long as he could get on a plane for work. “I love California, but over time the cost of living got exorbitantly high,” said Mr. Sheu. He was born and raised in that state and went to the University of California, Berkeley. “I grew apart from California. Moving out of a city for more space in the suburbs is a pretty common goal. It often marks a maturation point for Americans with young children, who value well-regarded schools over a nightlife scene.

But given the state Mr. Sheu had left and the high compensation from his work, he was concerned that his departure would not go smoothly. As the managing director of a private equity firm, he is precisely the type of high earner California does not want to lose. When people in his tax bracket leave, the state is likely to audit them to make sure they really have gone with the May 17 tax filing deadline approaching.

People who have moved to another state or are working more remotely need to be extra vigilant with their tax documents. For Mr. Sheu, that involves an app on his smartphone that uses location services to track him all the time. What he is sacrificing in privacy, he is gaining in peace of mind, knowing he will be able to show exactly when and where he was in a particular state, should California’s tax authority come after him.

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