I haven’t given up on New York City, but the cons started to outweigh the pros on staying in the city full time as COVID hit in 2020. I still consider myself a New Yorker, albeit one who resides in the sixth borough, Palm Beach.
I have retained the New York grit, work ethic and get-it-done attitude, which actually serves me quite well in Florida, where many take a more relaxed approach to their careers.
Do I think the city will come back? – YES. In time. That said, having a flexible work schedule allows me to be productive wherever I am.
Thus, I have chosen a location where I can live life during these unprecedented times in a pretty normal fashion. A home where we have the ability to frequent restaurants (indoors and out), bars and small businesses, and play sports, attend in-person schools and enjoy events. A place where safety is top priority. In fact, we have ample (and free!) drive-thru rapid COVID testing for anyone and everyone who makes an appointment.
My fellow New Yorkers are making tracks south, too. Florida is reeling in new residents at a pace of 1,000-plus per day, while states like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut contract, resulting in budget shortfalls.
In 2019, Florida attracted $17.2 billion more than it lost – as the recipient of a “wealth exodus” from many states, including New York, which contributed about $8 billion to Florida’s income base. And we achieved this budget surplus without the added state income tax that weighs a heavy burden on so many Northern residents.
Having experienced the decisions involved in relocation myself, I saw an opportunity to help guide others through the process. As a real estate agent with Nest Seekers International in New York and Palm Beach, I specialize in helping clients move south and offer white-glove service for both buyers and sellers who want to make the transition as smooth as possible.
If you’re on the fence, here are a few more reasons why Florida is attractive right now:
1. Florida residents don’t pay state and city personal income taxes
A resident of Florida doesn’t pay state income taxes. Instead, Florida’s income is generated from sales tax and excise taxes. Living in New York City, however, adds about 13 percent to your tax bill for state and city taxes. For New Yorkers earning $1 million per year, that's a savings of $130,000 per year.
2. New tax law favors low tax states
Florida has always been a bargain when it came to taxes, but now it’s even cheaper relative to other high tax states negatively affected by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Prior tax law allowed for the deduction of state income tax and municipal taxes (such as property taxes on a primary residence) for the purpose of federal tax.
Almost overnight, the new tax law made it very expensive to own a primary home in New York. Under the new tax law, the amount of state and local taxes (SALT) deductible for federal tax purposes was limited to $10,000.
For a New Yorker who earns $1 million per year and who owns a condo with property taxes of $2,000 per month, not only does this New Yorker lose the deduction of $130,000 of state income taxes, but also $24,000 deduction of property taxes, save for the $10,000 allowable deduction under the law. In this scenario, a $144,000 deduction was lost as a result of the tax change.
Of course, not everyone earns $1 million per year, but for nearly half of Manhattan’s taxpayers that have taken the SALT deductions in the past, the average deduction has been over $60,000.
The TJCA also reduced the deductibility of mortgage interest on primary homes from $1 million to $750,000 for federal tax purposes. This is effective only for new mortgages. This change also makes it more expensive to own a primary home across the country assuming one can purchase a $1 million home. In Manhattan, you would be lucky to buy a one-bedroom apartment for $1 million but, around Palm Beach, you can find a great three-bedroom apartment in a luxury building.
3. No capital gains tax in Florida
Florida does not have an income tax for state residents and, therefore, has no capital gains tax for individuals. In contrast, New York City and the state tax capital gains at ordinary income rates, much like most other states.
That said, while it may seem simple to change residency from New York to Florida, New York state tax authorities don’t make it easy to leave. Under New York tax law, an individual who establishes a domicile outside of New York will still be deemed a “statutory resident” of New York if he or she (a) maintains a “permanent place of abode” in New York for substantially all of the taxable year and (b) spends more than 183 days in New York during the taxable year.
It’s not like you can simply register to vote in Florida or get a Florida driver’s license and become a permanent resident of the Sunshine State. New York state audits just about everyone who changes their residence to Florida so it’s important to abide by the rules.
4. No estate tax in Florida
Florida has no estate tax of its own, meaning assets are only subject to the federal tax. An estate tax, also sometimes called the “death tax," is a tax on property (cash, real estate, stock, or other assets) transferred from a deceased person to his or her heirs. The federal estate tax code allows for the exemption of $5.85 million for U.S. citizens and primary residents.
In contrast, New York City and the state both have an estate tax. When a resident dies, the property located in the city and state is subject to city and state estate taxes. Estate tax rates in New York range from 3 percent to 16 percent. Both the city and state, however, mirror the federal rules and exclude the first $5.85 million for U.S. citizens and primary residents.
5. Easier bankruptcy laws than many other states.
Florida has a homestead exemption that allows a primary residence of unlimited value to be protected from creditors, as long as the debtor has lived in Florida for 40 months. This differs greatly from many other states.
While bankruptcy law is not likely a key reason people are moving from NYC to Palm Beach, making Florida your permanent home could be a good option for someone who is at risk of a lawsuit that could potentially put them into bankruptcy (if they lose the suit).
6. Lifestyle and weather
Florida’s lifestyle is hard to beat. Moving to Palm Beach from NYC can add another dimension to your life not found in New York, given year-round warm weather. This often leads to a more active outdoor lifestyle whether you enjoy the year-round beaches, water sports, running, tennis, golf, and even just walking.
Hand in hand with population growth, Palm Beach serves as a cultural center focused on the arts and philanthropy including the Norton Art Museum, Society of The Four Arts, Kravis Center, and regular galas and events.
That said, nothing’s perfect… and there are still a few things that I’m getting used to: Frizzy hair, driving on 95 (honestly, I rather drive through NYC midtown on a Friday at 5 p.m. than down to Miami), men wearing shorts to dinner, and trying to get my steps in without the city hustle.
Erin Sykes is a Consumer and Real Estate Analyst and Chief Economist for Nest Seeker’s International. She began her career with Estee Lauder, working extensively within international markets, notably Asia and Latin America and later served as Vice President of Sykes Commercial Development, and now focuses on ulta-luxury residential home sales between Palm Beach, New York, and The Hamptons. Follow Erin @sykesstyle on social media.