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Why Becoming a Florida Resident Might Be a Good Retirement Move – And How to Do It

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

Updated February 2018 — The first article in this series, “Five Reasons Why You Should Retire in Another State“, explored the major reasons why it might be a really good idea for you to move from the Midwest or the Northeast to a different state. In this related article we have had the good fortune to interview Barton Smith Esq., a Florida attorney who, in addition to focusing in the areas of real estate, land use and civil litigation, has helped many clients establish legal residency in the Sunshine State. While this article specifically refers to becoming a Florida resident, most if not all of the steps are similar to moving your residency to another state.

TR: Bart, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. We understand you are not giving legal advice here, but have agreed to provide some helpful overview information for Topretirements members. First off, could you tell us if there are any advantages to becoming a legal resident in Florida?

BSmith: There are obvious advantages to becoming a Florida resident. The first, and most well known, is… Florida has no state income tax. However, there are many states that offer this advantage; one nearby state is Texas. Where Florida differentiates itself from other states is Florida’s homestead protection.

TR: OK, we’ll bite. What is the Florida Homestead Protection?

BSmith: First, Florida’s homestead protection is found in our constitution which requires a supermajority to amend. Thus, the protection afforded to a Florida resident’s primary residence is firmly rooted and very difficult to amend or eliminate. When a person is looking for a residency the safety that this protection is grounded in our state constitution should give someone the peace of mind that even in troubled times the homestead protection will not be subject to change. The homestead protection comes with advantages beyond just the homestead exemption. It protects the Florida resident from losing their home, no matter what the value, to a creditor or any other lien except for mortgages. Although no one plans on retiring and having to file for bankruptcy, it is good to know that should this occur your home is safe.

TR:So does this Homestead Protection also save money on taxes?

BSmith: The Florida “Save our Home Act” provides for a homestead exemption on a Florida residents primary residence. Once qualified for the exemption, the assessed value of the property for taxes purposes has an exemption of the first $50,000.00 of taxable value for all taxing entities, except the School District, and a $25,000.00 exemption of taxable value for the school district. Also, and probably more importantly, once the property is homestead the assessed value for tax purposes cannot rise more than 3% in any given year. Thus, over a long time frame a property’s market value will increase more than its assessed value deriving equity from the difference which you do not pay taxes on.

TR: So how do I qualify for this exemption?

BSmith: In order for a Florida resident’s primary property to qualify for Florida’s homestead exemption you must intend for the residence to be your primary residence. Then the standard to obtain the exemption is a factual determination made by the County Property Appraiser’s office where the subject property is located. No one factor controls, but it is a totality of the circumstances test that is used. Factors included are:

(1) A formal declaration of domicile by the applicant recorded in the public records of the county in which the exemption is being sought.

(2) Evidence of the location where the applicant’s dependent children are registered for school.

(3) The place of employment of the applicant.

(4) The previous permanent residency by the applicant in a state other than Florida or in another country and the date non-Florida residency was terminated.

(5) Proof of voter registration in this state with the voter information card address of the applicant, or other official correspondence from the supervisor of elections providing proof of voter registration, matching the address of the physical location where the exemption is being sought.

(6) A valid Florida driver’s license issued under s. 322.18 or a valid Florida identification card issued under s. 322.051 and evidence of relinquishment of driver’s licenses from any other states.

(7) Issuance of a Florida license tag on any motor vehicle owned by the applicant.

(8) The address as listed on federal income tax returns filed by the applicant.

(9) The location where the applicant’s bank statements and checking accounts are registered.

(10) Proof of payment for utilities at the property for which permanent residency is being claimed

Fl. Stat. 196.015

Other considerations are taken into account, but in reality if you become a Florida resident and intend to make your Florida home your primary home you should qualify.

TR: Is this basically the same process as becoming a Florida resident?

BSmith: The only major requirement for changing your state residency is owning a home in Florida, obtaining a Florida Driver’s license and registering to vote in Florida. It does not take relatively long. Of course, I do not enjoy the wait at the DMV, but I believe most states are comparable in this regard.

TR: How about other tax considerations for people moving to Florida from other states?

BSmith: I am not an accountant and always advise people to speak to a Florida accountant before you transition to Florida residency. Things to consider are estate and inheritance taxes in your new state vs. your current home state.

TR: What kind of enforcement issues do people get in trouble with?

BSmith: There are several. One area where people get into trouble is if they decide to homestead their Florida property and a property in another state. Most property appraiser’s offices do research homestead exemptions in other states; if the double homestead is intentional and not accidental it is a crime.

Another is maintaining conditions whereby the state you are moving from continues to believe you are still a state resident. This is an area where you should speak with your local attorney and or accountant. For example, if you do not spend more than half the year (365 / 2 plus 1 day) in Florida, your home state might contest your residency. Similarly, by not following any of the steps I outlined above (e.g.; maintaining a NY drivers license or voting in Vermont), your home state could contend you are still a resident in that state, and assess you income taxes and fines.

Lastly, the same type of compliance issues are related to the Florida Save Our Home Act. Florida has prosecuted individuals who made a sham of becoming a full-time resident of the state when they actually were legally residents somewhere else.

TR: Thanks Barton, this has been extremely helpful to our members!

About Barton W. Smith, Esq.:
Barton Smith is Managing Partner at Smith/Hawks Attorneys, which provide a wide range of services to clients spanning the entire spectrum of legal services. Bart practices throughout the State of Florida assisting his clients in a wide range of matters, focusing on bringing efficient solutions that are economically viable to his clients.

Smith/Hawks Attorneys, P.L.
138 Simonton Street
Key West, Florida 33040

Tel: 305-296-7227

For further reading:
Part 1: “5 Reasons Why Should Retire in a Different State

Can You Pass the Teddy Bear Test?
The Tax Friendliest States for Retirement
Worst States for Retirement – 2018

Originally published June 21, 2011. Some time has gone by since written but the advice is still sage.

Posted by John Brady on June 21st, 2011


  1. Here’s a suggestion – stay where you are of move to another state. We’ve got enough damn people in Florida who don’t contribute anything but pollution and more traffic.

    We don’t need any more “residents” putting more demands on the already underfunded infrastructure.

    Editor’s comment: Ouch!

    by Bigfoot — June 21, 2011

  2. we love the sunshine state: and want 2 b ur neighbor bigfoot…:smile:

    by bill — June 21, 2011

  3. What about full-time RVers and others who hope to travel full-time? How can one establish “residency” in a tax friendly state when one will not own any real property in that state? We would like to travel for several years, then settle down, but how does one get rid of all psossesions (including house) and do this?

    by Mad Monk — June 21, 2011

  4. Well Big–ahh–foot, Seeing that with me being a disabled combat veteran, I believe I did my part to defend Florida as well as the rest of my country. If you don’t mind, my family and I will live anywhere we “damn” well please.

    Sorry folks, I don’t mean to be overly sensitive or rude.
    BTW we love Top Retirements…Outstanding job!

    by cros99 — June 22, 2011

  5. On my way to FLA now, looking to be a permanent. Now, how do I make
    one of those ‘hanging chads’ you folks are so famous for??

    by Keith — June 22, 2011

  6. Anything has to be better than another Illinois winter…even moving in to Bigfoot’s neighborhood.

    by Ted — June 22, 2011

  7. I have the same question as Mad Monk. How do you end your home state residency if you’re planning on traveling in an RV and not settle for awhile, or what about residency in a new tax friendly state if you’re Rv living and travleing?

    by Lynn — June 22, 2011

  8. Loved the article! We have the best place to retire to, not only the benefits of living in paradise but never having to lift a finger to work again.. just play.

    by Maureen — June 22, 2011

  9. This isn’t directly related to the homestead issue, but it’s certainly related to moving to Florida — or not.
    My husband and I love winter (though they can be a bit long); and spring; and fall; and summer (but not high humidity and high heat for weeks on end). Which is why, even though my husband’s four siblings (who I love dearly) all live in Florida, and we’d love to live near them, we’re having serious doubts about whether we’d really be able to deal with the high humidity and more-or-less one-season weather (I also have asthma). Thoughts, anybody?

    by Marian — June 22, 2011

  10. I’m 53, so my “big plan” us to buy a cheap mobile home or condo in a 55+ community. Notice I said cheap. That would hopefully be cheaper than being a snowbird renter in the long run. I’d still want to be north during the summer and fall, for sure. No one is going to come knocking at my door to see if I’ve lived in the place for 5 months or 7 months. I pay most of my bills via internet anyway. I figure in 10 years or so when I actually retire I’ll have enough equity in the condo or mobile home to now worry toooo much about monthly payments.

    by Susan — June 22, 2011

  11. Thinking of relocating to Florida, consider threat of wildfires & evacuating one’s home every spring, then the wet season comes, greatful because the wildfire threat diminishes but the hurricanes & tornado threat arrives, very severe thunderstorms, humidity that doesn’t quit for months on end, largest most annoying insects I’ve ever seen and a cost of living that is now higher than where we moved from. Love Oct-March, the flowers, wildlife, (although because of the sprawl that is becoming less and less, being close to the ocean and not having to shovel snow, otherwise, wish we’d stopped in the Carolinas or Tennessee. Check it out carefully first, property taxes are very high it you haven’t lived here & been homesteaded for years, H/O Ins plan on it going up $200+ each year, water is also very expensive.
    thought we’d checked it out carefully, coming down at all times of year, comparing expenses, etc but even the oldtimers (meaning the people who are native Floridians) will tell you its not the way it use to be.

    by Barb — June 23, 2011

  12. Consider NE Florida if you’re concerned about hurricanes. If you check out NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), you’ll see NE Florida is very safe as far as hurricanes. There are three seasons (we don’t have winter), but there have been dozens of times I’ve worn a winter jacket to walk my dog. Yup, there is heat and humidity, but I’ve also lived in Maryland, NJ, and Ohio, and I can tell you that the summers there were hot and humid, too. If you’re close to the ocean, there is always a delightful breeze.

    Jan Cullinane, The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your LIfe (Rodale)

    by Jan Cullinane, co-author The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your LIfe (Rodale 2007) — June 23, 2011

  13. In response to Jan above, I live in NE Florida, south of Jax, very safe doesn’t mean won’t happenin fact those supposedly in the know say we are overdue. I’m from New England,lived in Eastern Kentucky for awhile also,had heat and humidity there as well but the humidity was nothing like Florida, actually there are some people here who like the humidity so its all in your preference, yes if you are close to the ocean you do get a nice breeze that is true, but the closer you are to the ocean the higher your H/O ins is and more chance of severe damage when a hurricane hits.
    All I’m saying is be aware of the bad parts as well as the good and check it out carefully, apparently I wasn’t careful enough.
    Also, we have the most beautiful sunrises/sunsets, cloud formations & rainbows I’ve ever seen.

    by Barb — June 24, 2011

  14. Very informative article and thanks to Attorney Smith. Thanks to Barb and Jan
    and the other folks for their comments. We’re planning on moving to FLA in 3 years, (SORRY BIGFOOT). The part of FLA we like best is the NE FLORIDA area, of course my research is strictly thru the net. We’re interested in a safe, clean, modern retirement community. Do not need all the bells & whistles i.e., golf course. If Barb/Jan could recommend any communities to research i’d be grateful. Sick of Boston, and if you want to compare cost of
    living expenses i’d be happy to.

    by hawksise — June 24, 2011

  15. @ Marian – I too have asthma, but did not develop it until I moved OUT of Florida, to the great State of Nebraska. I was raised in FL and lived there 30 years. You get used to the humidity. It burns off somewhat before noon, but can return with the afternoon showers that happen daily for a season. Many residents spend the humid months going from air-conditioned home, to air-conditioned car, to air-conditioned job, etc. But, if you wish to enjoy the best of Florida, which is the out of doors, then don’t spoil yourself. Get out there and enjoy it and you will get used to it. Your skin will love the moisture. Your hair not so much. And you will appreciate year round good weather when you don’t have to shovel snow or chip ice or “walk like a penguin” or deal with frigid winds. Florida is amazing, although not for everyone. There’s always California. LOL

    by Christi — June 25, 2011

  16. Hi hawksise,

    If you are interested in an active adult community, look into Del Webb Sweetwater. Of course, I don’t know your price range, but it’s in NE Florida, it’s safe, modern, and doesn’t have a golf course. It does have a lot of amenities, which is a big plus if you’re moving to a new area and want to start building a network of friends. As you can guess, it’s also a lot cheaper – the Cost of Living (based on an average of 100) is 94 in Jacksonville and 138 in Boston.

    Good luck,
    Jan Cullinane, co-author, The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale)

    by Jan Cullinane, co-author The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your LIfe (Rodale 2007) — June 25, 2011

  17. If Florida has such a good homestead law… why have so many lost their homes in florida?

    by Jim King — June 25, 2011

  18. Hi Susan – you are correct – they don’t knock on your door. It’s called “Certified Mail”, and they certainly do random checks of new residents. If you are buying on the “cheap”, consider that for a sale in the amount of $75,000, you pay only $1400 a year in taxes in my area without homestead exemption. Is it really worth a whopping fine if you get caught? 😥

    by D-Ann — November 15, 2011

  19. I hope that there is enough room in florida for two more people. We just got back from a look around and liked what we saw. Dose anyone have any info. on the Ocala area and the homes at On Top Of The world area? My wife and I are both Vets. and would like to use Tri. Care Ins. Has anyone had any experience using it in this area, are there military hospitals and out patient medical centers around Ocala? Thank you ahead of time for any help and info.

    by Brad — November 16, 2011

  20. That’s an excellent question, Jim! I have wondered the same. I hope that someone has an answer. Jane

    by Jane — November 16, 2011

  21. […] What state do you want to be a resident of? Becoming a snowbird represents an opportunity to become a resident of a more tax-friendly state – if you do it correctly and meet the legal requirements to do so. Caution: some states like New Jersey and New York are very aggressive about snowbirds who own property in those states but claim residency elsewhere. Make sure you have your t’s crossed and i’s dotted! (See “Why Becoming a Florida Resident Might Be a Good Idea“). […]

    by » Horrible Winters Make More Boomers Consider Becoming Snowbirds Topretirements — March 3, 2014

  22. Getting back to the original article topic of the Homestead. The question that I have is if one is on medicaid and has a homestead, can the state go after the homestead to be reimbursed for medicaid expenses once the medicaid recipient passes away. My guess would be not if the spouse is still alive but what happens to the property after that. Can it pass to the heirs or will the state claim the homestead to be reimbursed for Medicaid expenses paid on behalf of the homeowner?

    by j caplin — March 5, 2014

  23. PORT orange florida. Is great to retire in,
    There is a great place were moving to,
    Hawthon village. In port orange,
    It’s very nice, cheap rent,
    More. Of a home,
    Swimming. Pool. And. Events,
    Port orange florida. Is great for people. Over 50 AND older,
    We’re. In our 60s

    by Peggy — July 3, 2014

  24. My wife and I are also selling our residence in Vermont, and moving to Florida. Not exactly where just yet. Possibly the palm coast or Ocala, area. I get my health care through the VA. Is the health care good? I am well taken care of here in Vermont by the VA. As I am partially disabled, are there any tax breaks allowed for that? We lived in Edgewater Florida in the late 70s, but had to return to VT for family reasons. We are looking forward to coming to Florida in april to look again at some areas of interest.

    by steve lancour — March 28, 2015

  25. Ocala – just keep one thing in mind. Because of its location (middle & central)It gets very very hot there in Summertime as opposed to being close to either the East Coast or West Coast. Most Northerners do not know that being close to the coast it is cooler in the summer and !!! warmer in the Winter!!!.

    by Robert — March 29, 2015

  26. to Peggy = in that apt complex Hawthon village Pt Orange Fl. What do you get with your rent payments?
    Cable? I blv use of pool and exercise room etc. We are planning on moving back to Port Orange but have not made up our minds whether we want to rent or purchase a small affordable mobile home in one of the nice 55+ communities.

    Rent there in Hawthon seems a little high when you consider the yearly outlay. IMO.

    Pls advise. tks, Robert

    by Robert — March 29, 2015

  27. Not only is Ocala very hot in summer, it is extremely humid according to friends who live there.

    by Carol — March 29, 2015

  28. Robert,
    I know you have been doing a lot of research on where to move and you seem to indicate you want to live in a MH park with amenities in FL. As much as I love FL for vacationing, I don’t think I want to live there. If you couldn’t relocate to FL, what other State do you feel you could find a similar MH park to live in? Can you tell us about places (MH parks) you have visited and why you liked or disliked them? I am favoring SC, GA, TN or NC. I too am interested in living in a MH but think most parks are pretty expensive at +/-$500 a month.

    Does Topretirements have a separate section devoted to MH Parks?

    Note from Admin: Glad you asked. You can use Advanced Search to select by almost anything; type of community/housing, amenity, state, size, price, etc. . And within that you can select by either Manufactured Home or RV/Mobile Home community.

    by Louise — March 30, 2015

  29. I have to laugh when I hear the user community speak about the heat. I wonder if theyhave ever thought about being a senior citizen up north in winter. How many days could you not get out because your walk or street is not plowed? People talk about the heat as paralyzingly but at least you can get out of your house do your errands before the heat kicks in. In semiretirement I will be at the pool or sitting by the lake fishing when the dog days of summer hits. In the winter up north you sit at the window hoping it gets above 32 degrees so the snow melts. One other thing,
    Living in Ocala may not get u the breeze but the money you save on house insurance can buy a lot of fans! Insurance in Ocala about 800 a year near the breezy coast anywhere from 2000 – 3500. On affixed budget Thats an expensive breeze, I’ll take the cash and pool!!

    by Alexm — March 30, 2015

  30. Brad: In reference to On Top of the World, my husband and stayed there for 2 nights in 2016. We didn’t particularly care for it, at least for us. We felt like everything was looking pretty dated and that it wasn’t a particularly attractive community. We preferred both Del Webb Stone Creek, and Trilogy at Ocala Preserve, though homes in both communities are a bit pricier. We’ll be making a final decision between those two communities in the very near future. We’ve visited Ocala now in all four seasons and didn’t find the summer much different than the Washington, D.C. area where we currently reside.

    by Laurel — March 7, 2018

  31. Tennesee also has no income tax. Summers aren’t as hot and winters aren’t that long. If I were to consider Florida it would be northern Florida which still has it’s southern charm. South Florida is hot and has too many northeasterners.

    by Sal Monella — March 7, 2018

  32. Sal, don’t forget to mention that Tennessee taxes dividends and property. As a retiree I have little income to tax but I rely on my investment dividends to get by. I understand the property tax is quite high. While I really like Tennessee, I cannot live there for those reasons.

    by Rob — March 8, 2018

  33. The Hall Tax was repealed by Gov Haslam in 2016 and gradually reduces every year till eliminated in 2022.

    by Tom Radziewicz — March 8, 2018

  34. What is the “Hall Tax?”

    by Frank A — March 10, 2018

  35. The Hall Tax is a levy against all taxable interest and dividend income over 1250.00 per person in Tennessee. As stated Gov Haslam and his administration wanted to repeal this tax from the onset to make Tennessee more attractive for retirees since it already does not have a state Income tax.

    by Tom Radziewicz — March 13, 2018

  36. The new tax laws that went into effect capping SALT (State and Local Tax) deductions at $10,000 has sparked considerable interest in people moving from high tax states like California and New York to lower tax havens like Florida. This timely article from the NY Times – “Can You Pass the Teddy Bear Test” – has some good advice on making sure you do it right, as California and New York are taking a hard look at such moves.

    by Admin — March 23, 2019

  37. I would also suggest adding Puerto Rico to that SALT list. The much touted Act 20 and 22 tax advantage has stringent requirements. Research, research, research – measure 3X’s: cut once.

    by Rich — March 24, 2019

  38. With the population projections of Florida expected to increase by another 6 million by 2030, how much longer do you expect them to give the state away?

    by Peder — March 24, 2019

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