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Home Is Where Rover Lives

Many who own residences both here in Florida and in some northern states often consider claiming Florida residency to save on taxes, among other benefits. Becoming a Florida resident is quite easy; escaping the clutches of your former state’s taxing authority is another matter.

Many states impose their own rules to determine whether you remain a resident, even if you changed your voter registration, driver’s license and performed a host of other activities. For a complete list of what you should do to become a Florida resident, check out Appendix B to my latest book The Florida Residency & Estate Planning Guide, available by calling my office or on

This brings me to the Matter of Blatt, which is a New York state court case. As you may be aware, New York taxes are quite high. In Blatt the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance considers an individual to retain New York residency if he or she continues to “hold [items] ‘near and dear’ to his or her heart, or those items which have significant sentimental value, such as: family heirlooms, works of art, collections of books, stamps and coins and those other personal items which enhance the quality of lifestyle [in New York].”

Factors considered also include retaining a home, the location of business activity, the location of family ties, the location of social and community ties and formal declarations of domicile. But here the court was asked to consider other items that were ‘near and dear’ to the taxpayer.

In this case, the taxpayer’s most important possession was his dog.  Mr. Blatt moved to Dallas, Texas, another state with lower taxes than New York. The Division of Tax Appeals concluded that the significance of the taxpayer’s moving his dog to Dallas was reflected in an email to his friend in which he said that “the Dog is the final step that I haven’t been able to come to grips with until now. So, Big D is my new home.”

Moving Rover was therefore a significant factor in the New York State Tax Court’s decision in releasing the tax assessment and agreeing that Mr. Blatt was a Texas resident and not a New York resident.

The lessons to be learned in this ruling are significant.  If you claim Florida residency, for example, but retain your stamp collections, family heirlooms, works of art and other significant tangible personal property in your northern residence, there’s the chance that a northern state taxing authority uses those facts against you should an issue arise as to your residency for tax purposes.

In other words, just because you’ve registered to vote and obtained a driver’s license in Florida doesn’t seal the deal. I’m wondering what significance this decision would have on those who travel with their pets? I’ve spent a significant amount of time traveling recently and can tell you that there were about as many pooches on some of my flights as there were screaming babies and young children. Such is life in the skies these days.

As a side note—what’s up with all of these “Emotional Support Dog” vests? Those seem real fishy to me honestly. I love my dog, and he certainly serves as emotional support from time to time, but to get some kind of special treatment flying with him would seem like I’m gaming the system. Just saying.

So the bottom line is watch where you leave Rover. If his home is in another taxing jurisdiction, he may be costing you more than dog food and vet bills.

The Sheppard Law Firm has its main in Fort Myers and also in Naples by appointment.

© 2017 Craig R. Hersch. Originally published in the Sanibel Island Sun.

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