Thinking About Becoming A Florida Resident?

Thinking About Becoming A Florida Resident?

Just a little more than halfway through the rain and gray that is the winter of 2016-2017, you may be thinking about a move to Florida and perhaps establishing a Florida residency.

We have many clients that live in Florida for a significant portion of the year.  Over the years some of those clients have become Florida residents while others retain their residence in Pennsylvania. It is not a decision to be taken lightly as there are some pitfalls for the unwary. Here are some of the considerations to bear in mind.  

It is important to understand the difference between “residence” and “domicile.” A person can have only one domicile, but any number of residences in different states. Domicile is defined as actual residence within a particular state combined with the intention of making that state one's permanent home. In order to establish a new domicile, you must first abandon your old “domicile”, but not necessarily your old “residence.” The law respecting domicile is rather subjective and the ultimate answers to questions raised are frequently not very definitive.  The reason is that the determination of domicile is basically a factual finding of the intent of the individual, based upon the external and objective acts which he takes.  Thus, there are numerous factors involved, none of which is clearly determinative of the result in and of itself, but all of which have a bearing in pulling together an analysis of "all of the facts and circumstances."

Although Florida does not have a state income tax or a state inheritance/estate tax, a person who moves to Florida from Pennsylvania may nevertheless continue to be subject to Pennsylvania taxes if Pennsylvania domicile is not terminated or if Pennsylvania real estate or Pennsylvania tangible personal property is owned. On the other hand, Florida has a homestead exemption for real estate taxes is beneficial.  In order for a Pennsylvania resident to establish a new domicile in the State of Florida and abandon Pennsylvania domicile, we recommend that you consider the following types of actions:

• Purchase and establish a residence in Florida.
• File the Declaration of Domicile in the Circuit Court in the county of new residence certifying that you are a permanent and bona fide resident of Florida.
• Register to vote in Florida and vote at the next possible election in Florida.
• Surrender your Pennsylvania driver's license and license plates.
• Obtain a new Florida driver's license.
• Register your car in Florida and use Florida license plates.
• Obtain a new car title in Florida when you buy a new car.
• File your Federal income tax return with the District Director where Florida residents file their Federal income tax returns showing the new Florida address.
• Cease filing Pennsylvania resident income tax returns.
• Establish a banking relationship in Florida.
• Have your Social Security checks direct deposited into a Florida bank account.
• Establish a financial advisor relationship in Florida.
• Close your Pennsylvania checking and brokerage accounts, or at least change your mailing address for your periodic statements to your Florida address. You can use mail forwarding to have them sent to Pennsylvania during those times you are here.
• Use your Florida address for all purposes.
• Consider opening a safe deposit box in Florida and closing your Pennsylvania box.
• Spend a significantly greater portion of each year in Florida; that is, be physically present a majority of the time.
• Do not spend more than 182 nights in Pennsylvania in a calendar year. 
• Dispose of any home in Pennsylvania.
• Establish a relationship with a physician and have medical records transferred.
• Establish religious, social and professional relationships in Florida.
• Resign from, or change to non-residence status for clubs, churches and social organizations in Pennsylvania.

All of these kinds of actions or activities have a bearing on the ultimate legal question which is the intent to reside permanently in the new location.  No one of them is a silver bullet or of overriding importance. Taken as a whole, these are many of the various factors which are generally reviewed and analyzed.  If you are interested in learning more about establishing Florida residency.