Snowbird Law: Relocating from Minnesota to Florida

Every year, the population of Florida rises approximately 5% from November to April. Nearly one million snowbirds from the north are drawn to the Sunshine State, and many eventually decide to make Florida their permanent home.

If you are considering making the land of beaches, Disney and “Florida Man” your home, you will need to be prepared to prove that you are not too tied to your northern abode. Establishing your domicile in Florida means that you will not pay income taxes, and taxing authorities in your former home state will not be keen to surrender their claims on your money.

The following are steps you will need to take to establish your permanent residency in Florida:

  1. Own property and stay for 183 days. While many snowbirds own homes in Florida as well as their originating state, you will need to spend a minimum of six months in Florida in order to be considered a resident. If you own a house in Minnesota but you rent in Florida, you will raise questions about your long-term intent.
  2. Keep thorough records. As long as you maintain two residences, you should expect to be questioned about the time you have been in Florida. Keeping location-specific records such as ATM receipts, SunPass records and utility bills will help you prove you have met the 183 day requirement.
  3. Update your driver’s license, car registration and voter registration.
  4. Change your address. In the event of a tax audit, the address you list as “home” carries a lot of weight. Change your address on bank and investment accounts, subscriptions and mailing lists to your Florida residence.

There are also some less obvious steps you can take to demonstrate that you intend to live in Florida permanently:

  1. Buy a cemetery plot. Morbid? Maybe. But your selected final resting place is compelling evidence that you intend to stay “home”… forever.
  2. Open a safety deposit box in Florida and transfer your valuables. You would want access to your most valuable possessions in your permanent home, wouldn’t you?
  3. Store your wedding photos and other personal memorabilia at your Florida home. These are not items that people generally keep in a vacation home.
  4. Trade in your ice fishing gear and purchase a fishing license in Florida. Even your fishing license is tied to your address.

Sunshine and warmer temperatures can be alluring, but if you want to take advantage of the income tax-free opportunity that comes with a move to Florida, be prepared to prove that you actually live there. Once you do, be sure to send your chilly northern friends a photo from the beach (or the golf course).

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