TALLAHASSEE — President Donald Trump’s decision to become a resident of the nation’s largest swing state took New Yorkers and Floridians by surprise — but maybe it shouldn’t have. Trump announced his move in a series of Thursday night tweets, saying he had been mistreated by New York officials, who have investigated his businesses and aggressively sought his tax returns. The newest Florida Man has some things to gain by — at least on paper — leaving the Empire State for the Sunshine State.
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There are myriad tax code differences between blue-state New York and Florida, which is overwhelmingly run by Republicans who tout the state’s tax climate to attract both people and businesses.
Moving to Florida would potentially spare Trump one of the stiffest tax increases included in his 2017 overhaul of the code — a new $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions. That hits wealthy people in blue states particularly hard, because they pay so much in taxes and therefore have a lot to deduct, although it’s unclear how much Trump pays.
The far bigger savings would come from avoiding New York’s 16 percent estate tax, which could potentially be huge. Florida does not have an estate tax.
But whether someone is subject to New York’s estate tax depends on where they are “domiciled” — a vague term that basically means where a person really does actually live.
Taking advantage of Florida’s favorable tax climate is not simply a matter of filing paperwork or declaring that you now live somewhere else. And New York won’t make it easy to cut ties. Thanks to its high taxes, New York has a lot of experience with wealthy people saying they’re leaving and has developed a long list of things it considers when deciding if someone has really left.
New York looks at everything from where someone’s stuff is to where they vote to where their business interests lie to where their doctor lives — and experts say it could easily find Trump remains subject to New York taxes.
“Filing a certificate of domicile in Florida, as Trump has done, is legally irrelevant,” said Peter Faber, who recently retired as head of the state and local tax practice in New York at the law firm McDermott Will & Emery. “What counts is what you do, not what you say.”
He says Trump doesn’t spend enough time in Florida to avoid New York taxes, and likely won’t so long as he’s president.
There’s also little risk of Florida following in New York’s footsteps by trying to legally compel the president to release his tax returns.
Getting to vote in Palm Beach County
Trump, who records show is not yet registered to vote in Florida, will now reside in Palm Beach County, which POLITICO reported last week is near the regional epicenter of his reelection bid. He has long gotten publicity for his regular trips to Mar-a-Lago, the Trump-owned golf resort that is now his official residence. And now — although he gets one vote like any other person — his vote will count in a county and state that matter electorally.
In Palm Beach, Trump can hang out with supporters like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, plus celebs like Tiger Woods and Don King live not too far away. Gov. Ron DeSantis is a big Trump fan who made fun of his own Trump love in campaign ads that featured his toddler building a play border wall. And if Trump gets nostalgic for New Yorkers, he’ll certainly have a ton of them in South Florida that he can hobnob with.
Keeping your home if you get your pants sued off
Florida has a robust asset protection law that allows people to protect property, investments and other substantial assets in the event of unfavorable legal rulings. Lawyers in Florida tout former football player O.J. Simpson’s use of this law to dodge creditors by sinking his money into a large estate in Florida.
You scratch my back, I scratch yours in Florida
Trump likes Florida, and Florida likes him back.
“This has always clearly been a second home for the president, and more and more of both his professional and personal time has been spent at Mar-a-Lago,” said Brian Ballard, a prominent lobbyist and Trump fundraiser. “I think it helps the state. If you’re recruiting businesses, a multi-billionaire president of the United States can’t hurt.”
Presidents make decisions on things like disaster declarations that send federal money flowing. Florida can benefit by counting Trump as one of its own. And DeSantis, a Republican who took office this year, will be eager to shower POTUS with his appreciation for moving down.
A friendlier political climate
Trump just got booed at a World Series game in Washington this week, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been quick to kick Trump on his way out the door, saying on Twitter “good riddance” and “He’s all yours, Florida.” Some Florida Republicans quickly welcomed Trump to their state, where he had already been scheduled to keynote the Republican Party of Florida’s biggest annual fundraiser next month.
“Here in Florida we’ve cut taxes by over $10bil in the last 10yrs while states like New York tax their resident into exodus,” tweeted Florida House Majority Leader Dane Eagle. “The result: roughly 1,000 new Floridians every single day. Big welcome to our newest resident.”
And there’s little danger of being booed at a Miami Marlins game since so few people attend.