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Domicile

Choosing a state to Establish Your Domicile When Fulltiming

Completely rewritten and updated by Jeff Cousins, June, 2009

There are many reasons for choosing particular states to establish your domicile while living in an RV that will be discussed here but it is essential to show intent to establish one domicile for all purposes including wills, taxes, vehicle registration, licenses, and insurance. Failing to do so can mean running afoul of one state’s requirements for taxes and could put insurance coverage and estate planning in limbo. In all cases please obtain legal help in making such choices.

There can be many personal reasons for choosing a particular state to call home but this discussion will be limited to those that are common to most RVers including:

  1. Taxation including income, sales, and inheritance taxes
  2. Vehicle registration fees, insurance cost, and inspection requirements
  3. Drivers License requirements
  4. The availability and cost of health insurance that will provide coverage as you travel
  5. Voting and jury duty procedures
  6. The acceptability of fulltimers and ease of becoming a resident
  7. Organizations that support fulltimers

Seven states, Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming have no personal income tax. Two others, New Hampshire and Tennessee, tax only dividend and interest income. While that is a major concern for many RVers other considerations such as Alaska’s stiff residency requirements because of its oil dividend distribution to residents as well as its remote location make it a questionable choice for most. States such as Washington also require a physical location as a residence or showing proof that you plan to reestablish one that make it impractical for many to use as a home base.

States are quite adamant that if you intend to benefit from some of their resources you should be subject to all the obligations that residents have. For instance while it is easy to establish residency in a no-income tax state they will take a dim view of registering your RV in a state with no sales tax. States including Colorado and Washington have prosecuted residents with RVs registered in Oregon and Montana.

Leaving your will in one state while moving your residency can subject your estate to being contested or you being considered to be without a valid will. Your Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney should also be established in your home state although you may find you need another if you are hospitalized in another location. In summary when you choose your new “Home” in would be wise to transfer all aspects of your residence to that state and obtain local legal advice. Also keep in mind you can “qualify” for residency as far as taxation is concerned by spending too many days consecutively in certain states (6 months in MN and AZ for example) or being employed for a certain period of time in others. The following list of popular states chosen by Fulltimers and the information provided will be updated as more current data becomes available. It does provide an outline to consider for wherever you decide to establish your domicile. Please do your homework for your personal needs and have a plan in place when you do switch.

Florida:

  • No personal income tax or tax on investments
  • No special requirements for private vehicles, regardless of length or weight.
  • Vehicle insurance rates in Florida are mid range. Uninsured motorist coverage is expensive but liability and collision rates are similar to many urban areas. Rates vary considerably by region, with the southeast cities (metro-Miami, Ft Lauderdale, etc) the most expensive.
  • Florida has a large retirement population that insures a variety of health coverage options

South Dakota:

  • No Personal Income tax
  • Inheritance Tax equals the Federal State Inheritance Credit resulting in no additional tax
  • Registration is low but some counties have a wheel tax based upon vehicle
  • Vehicle sales/use tax is 3% of the trade difference. When transferring vehicles into SD as a new resident credit is given for taxes paid other states.
  • No driving test required for large RVs or to transfer a current out-of-state license
  • Drivers license is $8.00 for a five year license
  • Vehicle insurance is quite low
  • Health insurance is available for Medicare from several companies with national coverage but there are no HMO or PPO plans that provide coverage outside of the immediate area. Individual Major Medical Policies for fulltimers are available from a couple of companies.
  • Registering to vote requires spending the night before you registering the county. Voting in local elections require a 30 residence in the county that does not apply to state and national elections. Absentee voting is quite convenient.
  • Several commercial mail forwarders provide services to RVers including resources for all aspects of becoming a resident including:

    Alternative Resources, Sioux Falls (800) 477-2664 www.alternativeresources.net

    Americas Mailbox Rapid City 866-747-3700 http://www.americas-mailbox.com/

    Mail Boxes, Etc. Ask for Jackie (877) 461-8361

Texas:

  • No Personal Income Tax
  • Inheritance Tax equals the Federal State Inheritance Credit resulting in no additional tax
  • Registration is low
  • Vehicle sales tax is 6.25% but transferring a vehicle into Texas as a new resident costs $90.00 if you have owned the vehicle 90 days
  • Texas does require a driving test for RV’s over 26,000 lbs if you do not already have an equivalent license from your previous domicile and they can be renewed by mail
  • Vehicles need an annual safety inspection but you have until the next time you return to Texas to accomplish this
  • Texas can be above average for vehicle insurance, check with your broker
  • Registering to vote absentee is easily accomplished
  • One of the main reasons Texas is chosen as a full time RV domicile is that the Escapees organization provides a great deal of information and support to their full time RV members including mail forwarding.

    Escapees RV Club, Livingston, 888-757-2582, http://www.escapees.com