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Julie Garber

Do the Rich Move to Avoid Income Taxes and Estate Taxes?

By March 23, 2009

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Taxes Not Seen as Making the Rich Flee New York, so states an article by Nicholas Confessore that appeared last week in The New York Times. It seems that lawmakers in Albany have been toying with the idea of collecting an additional income tax on "rich" New Yorkers, and the gist of the article is that there is very little evidence to support the notion that when a state raises its income tax on the wealthy, they flee in droves to states where there is a lower income tax rate or no income tax at all.

I really think that anyone studying this subject should start with a survey of estate planning attorneys who live and work in states without an income tax and/or an estate tax. Why? Because in my 14 years of experience as an estate planning attorney, I'm going to estimate that at least 50% of my clients have changed their domicile from a state that collects an income tax and/or an estate tax - such as Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio or Pennsylvania - to a state such as Florida that doesn't collect an income tax or an estate tax (Florida is where I happen to now live and work, having moved from Maryland 5 years ago). Another interesting tidbit for the researchers out there is that my firm also has an office in Tennessee, a state that doesn't have an income tax per se but does collect an estate tax, and at least once a month we work with Tennessee residents who have made Florida their new home.

Of course, the argument can be made that for some people the big reason that they decided to move to Florida was to live in a warmer climate. That's the reality for me - no, I don't miss the cold and snowy winters in Maryland or Pennsylvania (where I grew up). But I'll bet that for just as many people taxes, both income taxes and death taxes, played a major role in their decision to make a move. Aside from it being sunny and 75 today, do you really think that I miss paying Maryland and Pennsylvania income taxes?

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