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Snowbirds May Want to Become Florida Residents

elder snowbird couple looking at bills and laptop

Every year thousands of people escape the snow and ice and move to Florida for the winter. If you are a snowbird, you may want to consider becoming a Florida resident. An experienced attorney can help you decide whether to make this change and guide you through the process of establishing Florida residency.

What are the Benefits of Establishing Florida Residency?

For most individuals, there are significant financial benefits to establishing Florida residency.

• No Income Tax

Florida is one of only nine without an income tax. This means that not only do residents not have to pay state taxes on income they earn, but they also do not have to pay state taxes on unearned income, like retirement benefits, interest, and dividends. These savings can make a huge difference for individuals that spend their summers in a high-tax state up north, like New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, Connecticut, Wisconsin, etc.

• Florida Homestead Property Tax Exemption

Florida provides a Homestead Property Tax Exemption to its legal residents. This exemption can decrease a property’s taxable value by as much as $50,000. The property must be a permanent residence to qualify. In addition, residents can receive protection from valuation increases under the Florida Save Our Homes law.

How Do Snowbirds Establish Florida Residency?

Establishing Florida residency is not as easy as filling out a single form or simply stating, “I’m a Florida resident. Instead, various factors affect the determination of your legal residency, and you must prove that Florida is your primary and permanent home through your conduct. Below is a list of eight things that you can do to help establish Florida residency as a snowbird.

1. Spend Most of Your Time in Florida

Most states have what is commonly referred to as the 183-day rule. Basically, this rule says that the state will tax you as a resident if you own a home and spend at least 183 days (approximately six months) of the year there. Therefore, if you spend more than half of your time in Florida, you will not meet the minimum threshold for any other state.

In case you get chosen for a residency audit, you should keep a record of where you are each day of the year. It is a smart idea to keep receipts from the time you spend in Florida to prove your location.

2. Get a Florida License

Having a Florida driver’s license is further evidence of residency. You can apply for a Florida license in person at any local Florida office offering driver’s license services.

3. Register Your Vehicle in Florida

When you get your Florida driver’s license, you should also register your vehicle, RV, or boat in Florida. There are registration fees that will vary based on the type of vehicle.

4. Register to Vote in Florida

You should register to vote in Florida. This process can be completed online or through a paper application. It is required to have a Florida driver’s license or state ID to register to vote.

5. Buy or Rent a Larger Home in Florida

If possible, your Florida home should be bigger or at least the same size as your home up north. If your summer home is large and you have a small apartment in Florida, it will not look good to a tax auditor.

6. Bank in Florida

You should close your bank accounts in the state where you previously resided and transition your banking to Florida. Using a national bank is fine, but there should be a branch near your Florida home. You should also ensure that all your bank and credit card statements are sent to your Florida address. Finally, you should work with brokers, financial planners, and insurance agents based in Florida.

7. File Your Federal Tax Returns with Florida as Your Residence

You should file a form to change your address on file with the IRS and list your Florida address as your home address when you file your federal tax returns.

8. File a Declaration of Domicile

Finally, you should file a Declaration of Domicile in the Florida circuit court of the county where you reside. Each county has its own version of the form; there is no standard state-wide form.

Call A Naples Estate Planning Lawyer

Snowbirds becoming Florida residents is not a new thing but the process is easier with the right attorney. If you have questions about establishing Florida residency, you should contact an experienced Naples attorney. Contact our offices today at (239) 449-6150 or use our web form to set up a free consultation.

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