Why Is the New Tax Law A Good Reason to Retire in Florida?

Florida is looking better every day, thanks to changes in the federal tax code. A newly enacted limitation on the deductibility of state and local taxes (SALT) is motivating people from high-tax states, like Illinois and New York, to explore new ways to reduce their tax exposure. That’s leading them to move to Florida. The change in the federal tax code, combined with Florida not having any personal state income tax, has become a key reason for the relocation of many to the Sunshine State.

The Miami Herald recently reported in the article, “Federal tax changes make the Sunshine State even sunnier,” that since the new tax law went into effect in 2018, many people have been considering relocating to Florida. There is good reason. Under the new rules, taxpayers, generally, can only deduct up to $10,000 of SALT as an itemized deduction, which is just a small part of what’s typically paid in these states.

Establishing Florida as your domicile isn’t that easy. While spending 183 days in Florida will help you become a resident, establishing domicile in a new state requires a bit more legwork. Developing a plan of action is crucial to ensuring a seamless process and avoiding penalty-invoking errors.

Moving your domicile to Florida doesn’t mean you must sever your ties with your former home state. Maintaining secondary residence, spending time with family and other activities can all continue, but must be judged against evidence that supports intent, facts and circumstances:

  • Keep good records, like diaries, monthly shopping and flight records to be able to prove that you’ve spent a minimum of 183 days in your new home state;
  • File a Florida Declaration of Domicile;
  • Buy a home in Florida, file for homestead and relinquish it in your previous home state;
  • Register to vote, get a Florida driver license, transfer your car registration and relinquish these rights in your previous home state;
  • File all federal income tax returns and any other state and governmental items with a primary Florida address;
  • Relocate your primary business activities to Florida, if applicable;
  • Open Florida-based bank accounts and move any safe deposit boxes;
  • Do the majority of your spending activities here, like shopping and charitable giving;
  • Get involved with religious and civic organizations in your new hometown; and
  • Update your estate planning documents.

Another major item when planning a relocation, is the lack of tax on transfers of wealth upon death, like an inheritance, or during life, such as a gift. The same states (like Illinois) that impose large income taxes also often impose inheritance and gift taxes that can tax up to 20% with lower exemption levels than at the federal level. While inheritance and gift taxes at the state level can be imposed on estate and gifts as low as $1,000,000, cumulatively, Florida doesn’t have these taxes.  Currently, the State of Illinois imposes a tax on estate and gifts in excess of $4,000,000.  This means that in high-tax states (like Illinois), estate and gift taxes could be imposed, even if there’s no federal estate tax imposed.

Adhere to the requirements mentioned above, so you aren’t still taxed in your former state. High tax states know they are losing residents, so they are likely to be more vigilant about making sure that newly-declared Florida residents meet all the requirements. Be ready to prove your residency, or face taxes from your previous, high-tax state.

If you are interested in discussing the possibility and benefits of becoming a Florida resident, please give a call to Michael T. Huguelet, P.C.  We have lawyers licensed to practice in the State of Florida; and, who have actually practiced in the State of Florida.  We look forward to helping you make your decision.

Reference: Miami Herald (February 22, 2019) “Federal tax changes make the Sunshine State even sunnier”

Four Retirement Issues for 2019

A host of new retirement savings options will be on the horizon for millions of Americans whose workplace does not offer 401(k) plans, says The New York Times in “For American Workers, 4 Key Retirement Issues to Watch in 2019.” The article takes a broad view of retirement policy topics, covering everything from Congress working on a plan to stop sharp cuts in traditional pensions, to the SEC’s battle over fiduciary responsibilities to protect investors and the possible expansion of Social Security.

Here are some of the highlights:

Workplace Savings Plans. Features like automatic enrollment and matching employer contributions make these plans a great way to help save for retirement. However, a third of workers in the private sector don’t have access to these plans. In 2019, some states are starting programs to automatically sign up workers who don’t have access to these plans at work. Employers in some states will be required to set up automatic payroll deductions, although they won’t have to make matching contributions.

Congress is expected to work on legislation that would make it easier for employers to create and join a single 401(k) plan that they could offer. This “open multiple-employer plan” would be offered by private plan custodians. It may take a while for this to get up and running.

Pension Insolvency Crisis. A special congressional committee is working on heading off an insolvency crisis that could lead to big cuts in pension benefits for millions of workers. More than 10 million workers and retirees are covered by multi-employer plans, which are severely underfunded. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a federal insurance program for pensions, will run out of money by 2025, if nothing changes. This is a complex problem, with no easy solution.

Protecting Investors. This battle over requiring fiduciary standards by brokers has been going on for a while. It centers on requiring brokers and others to put customer’s financial interests first. A rule from the Department of Labor from the Obama era never made it past opposition from the financial services and insurance industries. A proposed new rule from the Securities and Exchange Commission would require brokers to put their customer’s financial interests ahead of their own. However, it does not require them to act as fiduciaries. Consumers advocates are against this rule, believing that it does not go far enough.

Expanding Social Security. Expansion legislation in the Larson Bill from has more than 170 co-sponsors in the House. The bill includes a 2% increase in benefits, a generous annual COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) and higher minimum benefits for low-income workers. How are we paying for these increases? The cap on wages subject to taxation and a gradually phased-in higher payroll tax are the sources.

Regardless what happens (or does not happen) in Washington, if retirement is in your future, 5 or 50 years from now, this is the year to have your estate plan created and ramp up your savings.

Resource: The New York Times (Dec. 23, 2018) “For American Workers, 4 Key Retirement Issues to Watch in 2019”