Florida welcomes about 55,000 permanent transplants from New York State each year (Bloomberg 2/6/15). Besides avoiding the winter (certainly understandable given the unrelenting cold of 2015), many are seeking relief from New York income tax, and ultimately, New York estate tax.
But don’t expect New York (or any state you’re from, for that matter) to just automatically bid you bon voyage. You represent lost revenue. If New York chooses to audit you – a prospect that increases with your level of wealth – you will have to document that you really are a permanent Florida resident, not a New Yorker.
Owning property in Florida may be part of that proof, but is is not sufficient by itself. You have to do the time. That means spending at least half the year plus one day in Florida – in other words, 183 days. You don’t need to do it all in one stretch, but it must total that number.
That said, just being away from New York for 183 days each year may not cut it, either. For example, if you spend five months in Florida, two months in California with your daughter, one month vacationing in North Carolina and four months in New York, don’t be surprised if New York claims you are still a New Yorker, albeit one who just happens to travel a lot.
Your “domicile” is another, somewhat more subjective measure that is also required to prove residency. Although there are no hard and fast rules, here are some basic elements that will demonstrate to New York that Florida is your domicile:
- Purchase property in Florida, and file for your homestead exemption.
- Obtain your Florida voters registration card.
- Obtain a Florida drivers license and car registration.
- Make sure your mailing and permanent address is your Florida address on all your bank and brokerage accounts.
- If you still own real property in another state, have the tax bill for that property sent to your Florida address.
- File a Florida “Affidavit of Domicile.”
- Set up your banking arrangements with a Florida bank.
- Consult with, and have medical records transferred to a Florida physician.
- Affiliate with Florida religious, civic or other organizations, rather than retaining membership in out-of-state organizations.
- If you have existing estate planning documents, consult with a Florida attorney to have them modified to conform to Florida law. If you don’t have documents, see a Florida lawyer who will draft them for you.
- Move the contents of your safe deposit boxes to a safe deposit box in Florida.
- Alert all the agencies and businesses that require your address, such as Social Security, credit card companies, etc., of your Florida address and have correspondence sent to that address.
Now that you are an official Florida resident, sit back and enjoy Florida’s tax advantages… and the sunshine, too.