How to Become a Florida Resident (And Escape New York or California)

If you recently moved to Florida or are thinking about it, it’s important to understand the Florida resident requirements.

Florida Residency Overview

Who determines who is a Florida resident?

Unlike becoming a citizen of a country, there is no single way to become a Florida resident. There are different rules depending on why you need Florida residency.

For example, the main requirement for taxes is usually where you live for more than half of the year, but college in-state tuition may require you to live in Florida for a certain amount of time. If you’re trying to get cheap Disney World tickets, you may need to show a Florida driver’s license.

Why do you need to be a Florida resident?

There are various reasons you may need to be a Florida resident. Again, each reason often has different rules.

  • Avoiding paying income taxes in another state
  • Qualifying for the homestead exemption on your Florida property taxes
  • Avoiding estate taxes or inheritance taxes
  • Obtaining Florida bankruptcy and other asset protection benefits

How do you become a Florida resident?

While there are different specific rules for different situations (more later), the general steps to become a Florida resident are:

  • Establish a home in Florida (purchase or rental)
  • Obtain a Florida driver’s license
  • Register to vote in Florida
  • Change your bank accounts and other important accounts to your Florida address
  • Actually spend time in Florida (usually more than half of the year)

Under Florida Statute 222.17, you can also file a Florida declaration of domicile at your local courthouse. The declaration of domicile is voluntary, and most people probably don’t even know about it.

A Florida declaration of domicile does not automatically make you a Florida resident if you haven’t properly established ties in Florida. Some lawyers and accountants recommend it as a way to tip the scales if there’s a way to argue that you’re still a resident of your previous state.

Florida Residency for Taxes

Property Taxes

Becoming a Florida resident for property taxes is usually fairly simple. Once you buy a home in Florida, you can generally just declare your intent to make that home your primary residence.

There is generally no minimum amount of time to live in Florida to qualify for the homestead exemption. You usually do have to declare that you’re no longer receiving a homestead exemption or other property tax benefits for maintaining a primary residence in another state or Florida county.

Income Taxes

Since Florida doesn’t have a state income tax, it also doesn’t have a rule on who is a resident of Florida for income taxes.

Even if you’re a resident of Florida, you may still have to pay income taxes to another state. You may have to pay another state’s income tax as a:

  • Resident until you break that state’s residency and establish Florida residency
  • Resident in the year you moved from that state
  • Part-year resident in the year you moved or if you continue to live in that state for part of the year (e.g., snowbirds, second homes)
  • Non-resident if you continue to work in that state, own a business or rental property in that state, or have other income tied to that state

Most states follow a 183-day rule for state income tax residency. If you live in a state for 183 days or more during the year, you’re considered a resident of that state.

When you’re a resident of a state, it can generally charge you income tax on all of your income. When you’re not a resident of a state, it can usually only charge you income tax on income that came from that state.

Breaking Residency in Another State

When you move from another state with income tax, it’s important to make sure you break residency in that state. High-tax states like New York and California are very aggressive about trying to say you’re still their resident so they can keep taxing you.

Establishing Florida residency on paper is evidence that you’ve broken residency in another state but isn’t the deciding factor. For example, many people try to evade taxes by obtaining a Florida driver’s license even though they still live in the high-tax state for well more than half the year.

States can do what’s known as a residency tax audit to determine where you’re actually living. In addition to looking at your government documents, they might look at things like your travel records, utility bills, or even cellphone GPS history.

Common triggers for a residency audit include continuing to own a home or business in the state you left. Things like not updating your voter registration or the permanent home address listed in your online bank account can also trigger a residency audit.

If you’re fully leaving another state, make sure that you change everything. If you still own real estate or a business in your old state, I recommend talking to a tax accountant or lawyer based in that state about how to make sure that you’ve 1) properly broken residency and 2) have enough proof.

Is there such a thing as state dual residency?

If you spend time in two states, there’s usually no such thing as being a dual resident of Florida and the other state. You’re usually a primary resident of one state and a part-year resident of the other state.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to establish residency in Florida?

There is no set rule for how long it takes to establish residency in Florida.

You should usually do things like register to vote and change your driver’s license as soon as you move.

You can usually apply for property tax benefits immediately, but your property tax bill for the year is usually determined by your status as of January 1st (or the previous owner’s status if you buy during the year).

For income taxes, residency usually goes by how many days you spent in each state during the calendar year. For example, if you move late in the year, you’ll usually still meet the 183-day rule for the old state. But even if you moved on December 31st, you’re still usually a Florida resident as of January 1st if you continue to live in Florida all year.

What’s the fastest way to become a Florida resident?

Consistent with the information above, there’s no Option A or Option B to become a Florida resident where Option A is faster. What you’ll want to do is finish your move and do all of the paperwork as quickly as possible.

Can you lose Florida residency?

You may lose Florida residency if you no longer meet the requirements to be a Florida resident. For example, if you establish residency in Florida and then go back to living in the other state for more than half of the year, you’ll typically go back to being a resident of that state.

There are some exceptions where you may be able to keep Florida residency such as for military members and college students.

How can you become a Florida resident without living there?

As a general rule, you can’t become a Florida resident without living there. Trying to do so is usually tax fraud.

There are some services where you can obtain a Florida address as a digital nomad or retiree who travels in an RV. You would generally still need to make sure that you’re spending enough time in Florida and not spending too much time in another state.

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