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How Snowbirds Can Be Taxed
as a Florida Resident

Q: I live in a northern high-tax state for part of the year, but I spend the colder months in Florida that doesn’t have an income tax. Would I be eligible to file my tax return as a Florida resident? Here is Rocky Mengle, tax editor at response to a subscriber’s question.

A: You can’t just say “I’m a Florida resident” to be able to file a tax return as a Floridian. You need to show that Florida is your primary and permanent home – and it’s your actions, not your words, that count the most. That means cutting as many ties to your other home as possible and putting down roots in Florida.

But no matter how rooted in Florida you become, don’t be surprised if your other state still wants you to pay taxes as a resident on all your income. The tax agencies in many high-tax northern states have well-earned reputations for fighting wealthier snowbirds who suddenly claim to be Florida residents.

To show that Florida is your permanent home, you need to spend most of your time there. The majority of states have what’s called a 183-day rule, which basically means the state will tax you as a resident if you own a home there and spend at least 183 days at it during the year. They don’t have to be consecutive days. Keep a log of where you are each day of the year just in case the tax agency from your northern state picks you for a residency audit.

Other ways to confirm you’re a Florida resident:

• Get a Florida’s driver’s license and register your vehicle there. Register to vote in Florida – and actually vote there. Move your money to a Florida bank. Keep prized personal possessions in Florida, a sign that this is your primary home.

• Make sure your Florida residence is larger than your northern home. That’s because it won’t look like Florida is your permanent home if you have a giant house up north but only a tiny rental in Florida. New York, for example, considers the size of each home a snowbird owns or rents to be an important factor in determining residency.

Update your will and other estate planning documents, indicating that your estate will be administered under Florida law.

• And pay taxes in Florida. The state doesn’t have an income tax, but residents pay other taxes. And you should file your federal income tax as a Florida resident.

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