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Resident for Tax Purposes

Bava Batra (1:5) | Yisrael Bankier | 3 days ago

The Mishnah (1:5) debates a city's various infrastructural needs and whether the residents are obligated to contribute in funding them. The Mishnah then asks that if a person moves to a city, when do they become defined as a resident? The Mishnah answers that this is if the person has been living there for twelve months. If however they purchased a house there, then they would immediately be obligated to pay taxes. How do we understand the twelve months window?

The Mordechai cites Rabbeinu Baruch who explains that the twelve month time limit only applies to people that are passing through the city. If however someone moved to the city with the intention of staying, even if he is only renting, he is considered like one that purchased a property and would be require to contribute immediately.

The Nimukei Yosef (5b) however explains that the twelve-month window applies to everyone – even one that wished to move to the city. 1 The Ran also maintains this position since the Mishnah does not differentiate between why the person has come to the city when teaching this law.

The Rivash (132) who also agrees with this position, continues that if one rented a property for twelve months then it would be considered like purchasing a property. He explains that the Mishnah does not specifically require one to purchase a property to be considered a resident. While it is true that intention alone does not qualify, taking an action that demonstrates the intention to stay longer than twelve months does.

Interestingly the Rivash (475) also rules that if someone is obligated to live in a city for more than twelve months then he is also immediately considered part of that city. At first, the responsa appear to contradict the previous one and aligns more closely with R' Baruch. Yet HaRav Eliyahu Lichtenstein2 explains that that responsa refers to a chazan who is contracted to work in that city. The agreement would constitute an overt action demonstrating his intent to stay in the city. Consequently, it is consistent with the previous responsa that only intention partnered with an action would qualify.

The Iggrot Moshe addresses the case of whether Bnei Yeshiva, individuals or young married couples, that are living in a town temporarily to study in Yeshiva or Kollel, are considered residents for these purposes. The Iggrot Moshe cites the Rama who rules like the Mordechai, that the twelve-month rule only applies to someone without the express intent of whether they are moving permanently. Recall that the Mordechai ruled that if someone moved to the city, it would be considered as if he purchased a property. The Iggrot Moshe explains that the logic also works in reverse. In other words, if someone move to a city, but knew from the outset that the move was temporary, even if the duration is several years, they would still not be considered a resident for these purposes.

The Iggrot Moshe continues by entertaining the possibility that it does not work both ways. He explains the debate between the Nimukei Yosef and the Mordechai as follows. For the Nimukei Yosef the law is dependant on timing while for the Mordechai it is dependant on intention. The Iggrot Moshe explain that perhaps the Rama disagrees with the Nimukei Yosef if one came with the intention of staying (siding with the Mordecha). Yet, he might agree with the Nimukei Yosef that once one stays in a place for more than twelve months he is considered a resident irrespective of his intention. Nevertheless, a kollel member that came to learn for three years after marriage might still be exempt. This is because his staying there can be defined as being ones – forced. The Rama rules in such a case, where circumstances beyond one's control keeps them in the city for longer than twelve months, they are not considered a resident. The Iggrot Moshe argues that the yeshiva student's situation qualifies as ones, for one does not merit to learn successfully from anyone, and this yeshiva may be his only option.


1 The Nimukei Yosef notes when the Mishnah states that if he purchased a property, he is obligated immediately, that is only if he lives in that property. Otherwise, he would only be required to pay for the infrastructure or services that benefit the house. See however the Chazon Ish (4:20)

2 In the footnotes to the Ran, Mosad HaRav Kook.

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