Home may be where your RV is, but we full-timers still need a legal address. When we began planning our full-timing life we spoke to a lawyer about the legal issues we might run into. He told us that, while our home is pretty much where we say it is, that it's always a good idea to establish a legal residency in case someone challenges our claim. One reason is that states benefit from your residency, and might use a number of reasons to claim that you are a resident of their state.
So, we got a Texas address and driver's license, registered our vehicles in Texas and registered to vote in Texas, which established our Texas home base. Part of the reason we chose Texas as a home base is a common one, familiarity. We lived here for many years and like the Texas laws and way of life. The other reasons had to do with comparing the pros and cons of residency in other states and chose what suited our needs.
For those of you who need to establish residency so that you can travel full-time, these two home base/mail forwarding services are good examples of what is available. For others, a search on "RV home base" will list other options, books, and resources.
Escapees offer a host of well-organized services and events. Membership benefits include: access to "Rainbow" RV Parks, co-ops and discount parks in several states; Escapade educational seminars: a monthly magazine; HOPS (events like a NASCAR race event or even a cruise); an RV forum; a their very unique care center at their Livingston headquarters (provides daily meals, transportation to medical appointments, LVN nurse assistance, adult day care with CNAs, and much more, all in an RV rally atmosphere).
Members can also earn coupons and discounts by referring new members.
Escapees mail-forwarding service lets you set the frequency and level of service you want, from forwarding all mail (including junk mail) to special sorting. All levels include having them read your mail to you over the phone, checking your mail for a specific piece or just letting you know what's you've received.
Mail service fees include a nonrefundable setup and cancellation fee, a minimum prepaid postage balance and your choice of one of three levels mail sorting/forwarding service. Postage is charged to your balance at cost with no markups.
Escapees annual fee is based upon which country you live in (USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, or the UK) and discounts if you are already a member of Passport America, Presidents Club, RV Gold Members, Thousand Trails or Woodalls (either Canada or USA for each.)
Escapees also have commercial memberships that include benefits like a prominent listing in their annual Escapees Travel Guide and the option to promote your business at their Escapades.
To become a Texas resident you do have to make a trip to Texas to get your Texas driver's license. Texas makes this is easy enough. If you have a valid license from another state, you won't have to take the written or manual driving tests unless you are under 18.
You can register to vote, register your vehicles and trailers by mail, and have them inspected whenever you bring them into Texas. Livingston and Polk County have very RVer-friendly governments, and are more than helpful should you need to call them.
Annual auto registration fees are very inexpensive.
Call for information ESCAPEES RV Club, 936-327-8873 or 888-SKP-2582
Polk County Clerk and voter information 936 327-6804
Polk Cnty Tax Assessor-Collector 936-327-6801
If you decide that a South Dakota residence is better for you, take a look at Americas-Mailbox. They boast the lowest over-all annual fees of any mail forwarding and home base service that they know of, but it's always wise to compare the costs of services that meet your needs. They offer several levels of mail sorting as well as forwarding for business accounts.
Americas-Mailbox can save you the inconvenience of traveling to South Dakota to register your vehicles because they will do this for you by proxy. All you have to do is send them the proper forms signed by a notary public along with the required fees–and taxes if any.
They also offer a free month of membership for every new member you refer.
Some of the advantages of a South Dakota residency is a mere 3% tax on vehicle purchases, no safety or smog inspections required, no wheel tax in RVer-friendly Pennington County, home of Americas-Mailbox and low insurance rates (ranked 49th out of 50 states.)
Members Larry Boomgaarden and Susan Kallandar, work campers at an RV Park we just visited, can't speak highly enough about Americas-Mailbox.
"I've had excellent, excellent service from Americas-Mailbox," Larry tells me. "They registered our vehicles without our having to go there. They helped with insurance and transferring titles. Their mail service is always on time. When we stopped in to visit them in Rapid City everyone was so friendly and helpful. We felt very welcome. They are building new quarters with spaces for overnight RV parking. They will also have rooms for rent in case you need a place to stay while you have your RV serviced."
A quick call to Don Humes, owner of Americas-Mailbox confirmed news of their expansion project.
"We have three hotel rooms and one cabin for residents to use to meet the Federal Real ID Act requirement of spending at least one night in your state of residence. By May 2011 we expect to grow from 19 full hookup sites to 60. We will have an RV service bay with mechanics, a public dump station, and a place for you to park your RV if you want to sell it. We're right on I-90 so you'll get a lot of exposure with easy access to our facility."
Download an information kit or call for information 605-593-4496
Email at Office@Americas-Mailbox.com
Americas-Mailbox is located in Rapid City just off exit 61 on I-90 under the biggest US Flag in SD.
Choosing a Home Base
Choosing your home base and residency state is no small decision. There's more to consider than just income tax. You'll want to look into any state laws that affect you, too
It might be worth having a lawyer advise you, and set up legal documents so that there is no mistake about your state of residence. If you own real estate or have a will in any state, you may have to take care to fully establish a residency in another state by registering all vehicles, getting a driver's license, registering to vote, establishing your will or trust or advanced directives in your preferred state. Even then there might be some legal issues with residency. Like I mentioned earlier, states like to hang onto their voters and taxpayers.
RV Home Base Facts to Note
States where there is no or low-income tax:
- New Hampshire
- South Dakota
- Tennessee and New Hampshire tax interest and dividends
- Utah has very low-income tax rates
RV Home Base Planning Tool
Set up a grid listing every state you would consider as your home base. Then make a column for each expense. important law or other factor associated with residency:
- Income tax
- Annual vehicle registration
- Annual vehicle tax
- Annual trailer registration
- Annual trailer tax
- Annual boat registration
- Annual boat tax
- Initial registration fees
- Smog inspection
- Safety inspection
- Vehicle insurance
- Health insurance
- Mail forwarding service
- Home base service membership
- Business status (LLC, etc. annual fees)
- Property tax w/residency
- Property tax w/o residency (if any)
- Property law and legal residency issues
- Business law
- Income source from which state
- Fishing/hunting licenses w/residency
- Fishing/hunting licenses w/o residency
- State park fees w/residency
- State park fees w/o residency
- State laws that affect you
- Can you renew your driver's license by mail
- Can you renew your vehicle registration by mail