As it turns out, South Carolina is actually the friendlier state when it comes to vehicle taxes compared to South Dakota, at least if you have a travel trailer. Mostly because SC doesn’t collect sales tax on travel trailers. At all. It’s hard to beat that. Even when you consider that SD’s title and registration fees are cheaper.
Don’t start planning to make SC your full-timing domicile state though. We pay out the butt here in income tax. At least our gas is cheap, not that that will matter much once I’m traveling and no longer bound to one state.
Now maybe you’re wondering why I’m going on about domicile stuff when it’s mail forwarding I’ve been working on the past two days. What it comes down to is you need to pick a domicile state before deciding on a mail forwarding company, because you’ll be using the address the mail forwarding company gives you as your ‘home’ address.
I had decided to make South Dakota my state of residency a long time ago and I’m going to be honest here, it wasn’t because I spent hours researching it, it was because the majority of pre-retirement full-timers do. I figured all those people couldn’t be wrong. Well, I have learned a few things about domicile state options, just from extensive browsing around on RVing forums. I’ll share it here, but don’t consider this a definitive guide, rather general bit of wisdom to consider if you’re early on in the process of preparing to full-time yourself.
The three most common domicile states for full-timers are South Dakota, Texas, and Florida. They all share no income tax in common, and have other perks as well.
South Dakota’s base state sales tax is 4%, the lowest of the bunch, and their sales tax for vehicles and RVs is 3%. They also don’t have a vehicle safety inspection, and you can register your vehicles without being in the state. In order to become a resident you just need a mailing address (hence the need for a mail forwarding company in South Dakota) and to spend one night in South Dakota in a campground or hotel and take the receipt with you to the DMV to get your driver’s license. There is some paperwork involved with each of these steps which I won’t go into in detail here since it’d be a post in and of itself, but if there is enough interest I will gladly write about it in the future or you can contact me by e-mail or social media for a more private audience.
Texas is I believe 6% sales tax, but they have the benefit of the Escapee’s RV club, which goes to bat with the government for full-timer’s rights. Another benefit is it’s southern location, you don’t need to worry about what time of year it is when you need to renew things.
Florida is well, Florida. You have to spend a certain amount of time a year there to be able to call it your home state, but as it’s the warmest place to spend the winter months in the continental U.S., so people who choose it wouldn’t call that a disadvantage.
Go to Rv.com, the Escapees forum, or any other large RVing forum and you’ll find many hours worth of discussion on what the best domicile state is. I will give you one important piece of advice though:
If at all possible, keep all of your affiliations in the state you call your domicile state. As in vehicle registration, driver’s license, owned property, if you have a business or LLC, doctor, dentist, bank, etc. Anything that ties you to another state can give that state the chance to try to claim you as a resident, and that can lead to fines and fees and miles of legal tape.
If you’re going to be working seasonal jobs like I am, that can also lead to some gray areas. Besides having to pay state tax on the hours you put in in the other state, (I’ll be paying income tax to Kansas for my time at Amazon) if you spend too much time working in a state that can also gives officials a reason to claim you as a resident. I’m not saying that it’s going to happen, it’s just a distinct possibility that young full-timers should be aware of.
Some states are worse about this than others, California being one example. I remember reading about a RVer who got pulled over by the police in the state, he’d been working there for a few months. The cop cited him for not having California tags on his vehicles and charged him a hefty late fine. He didn’t actually ‘live’ in the state, but because he’d been working there for X amount of time by state law he was a resident.
Stories like these worried me as a future full-timer and it’s something I’ll be keeping in the back of my mind as I head out next month. It’s impossible to keep track of the nuances of every state’s rules when it comes to residency, but I recommend checking a reliable RVing resource/forum for things like this before planning to spend a significant amount of time in a new state as a precaution.
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And pictures are back, yay! I don’t have the iphone picture thing completely sorted out yet, but I’m getting there. Here I have a picture of the pvc pipe within my closet that was leaking. After getting up on the roof and caulking over all of the rivet heads it seems to be doing okay. So far. I guess we’ll see.
The other picture is myself in the pool here at Stoney Crest. This RV park may not have a lot of trees and the sites may be close together, but it has a nice and well maintained pool. Bonus points for being deep enough that I can’t stand up in it at one end – very few pools go deeper than 5 feet these days (this one goes to 8). Also: my previous post on pop riveting has now been updated with pictures of the process.
I have several days off in a row coming up, and have plans to do a big RV cleaning/purging this weekend and get the rest of the mail forwarding stuff set up. Expect more about that next week, less than one month to departure, woohoo!
**Edited on 8/19/12 to remove text related to spam, as it has been all fixed.**