By Miri Kim Wakuta #126136
Loring & Associates, PLLC, California Licensed Attorney
Let’s discuss an issue that every full-timer faces: mail delivery.
As you embark on your journey, I am sure you had to address this issue one way or another. Your mail has to go somewhere. Maybe you have a loved one who took on the responsibility. Perhaps you decided to sign up for a mail service. Maybe you have procrastinated and that poor soul who bought your house is dealing with a mailbox full of your mail every day. Whatever your situation, you must know this one thing: The address you use to receive your mail may impact your domicile.
The determination of your domicile is made by looking at the totality of the facts. The courts or tax boards look to different factors to decide where you are domiciled. Imagine the domicile analysis as a scale. Each different factor acts like a block on the scale. Some factors may weigh a bit more heavily than others. As full-time RVers, you want to have as many factors on your side as possible. Picture your mailing address as a block or a factor. You need to decide whether your mailing address is a favorable factor for you or a factor to be weighed against you.
One of my favorite domicile cases, Sivalls v. United States, highlights this weighing process. It is a short and simple opinion published in 1953. This case involved a tax dispute between a veteran and the IRS. The core question of the case was whether the veteran was domiciled in the state of Texas or the state of Oklahoma during his tour overseas. The IRS claimed the veteran was domiciled in Oklahoma. The veteran claimed he was a domiciliary of Texas.
Among a few factors mentioned in the court’s opinion, the court looked to see where the veteran was receiving his mail during the relevant time period. He used a PO box address in Oklahoma as his permanent mailing address and used his home address in Oklahoma when he entered the army and married his wife. The appellate court also looked at other details and ultimately concluded that the veteran failed to establish his domicile in Texas during the relevant time period. The veteran was found to be an Oklahoma domiciliary during his tour overseas and therefore needed to pay Oklahoma taxes.
“How does that apply to Escapees?” you may ask. If you become involved in some sort of domicile dispute, the court or a tax board may also consider your mailing address in determining your domicile. Depending on the circumstances, the court may give this factor varying weight. Regardless of whether it is a minute detail or the main crux of your argument, we want it to be a favorable factor. So ask yourself, “Does my current mailing address reflect my domicile state?”
In the totality of your specific circumstance, your current address may be fine. But reassess your current arrangement if there is a conflict between your domicile state and your address. Let’s look at some different arrangements and certain issues that may pertain to you.
There are certain benefits to using a family member’s home address as your permanent physical address. In certain states, such an address is required to obtain a hunting license or driver license.
If the address is in the state you want to domicile in, great. Choosing to solely use this address as your permanent physical address, you have chosen that address as your domicile address. Everything should reflect that address. Your voter registrations and motor vehicle transactions should be done through the county of that address. You should establish your community connections in that county. Your car and health insurance will also be assessed through the locality of that address. All you need to worry about is getting your sister to mail the mail to you.
If you are using an address in a state different from your domicile state, you may need to reassess the arrangement. I will address using a separate “mailing address” below. For now, I will assume your family’s address is the only address you are using. This could be a problem, but let’s first consider all the factors in your favor. Here are some questions you may ask to get you started.
• Do you have sufficient community ties to your domicile state?
• In which state are you registering your vehicles?
• Where is your general point of healthcare?
This issue is especially more important if you are using an address from your previous domicile. It could show that you have not sufficiently cut ties with your old state.
I realize there are certain times when you must provide a physical address, and the only one you can provide is in a different state from your domicile. This issue could be addressed by providing that physical address and also providing your domicile address. Make sure the institution requiring that physical address has a letter or note from you. The note should state that the address provided is to follow their policies and in no manner do you intend to live or domicile at that physical address. Also specify your domicile address. It is certainly not a bulletproof way of handling this situation, but now you have created a paper trail of where you intend your domicile to be.
Perhaps you use a mail service. For some, an Escapees Mail Service mailing address serves not only as a mail service but as a domicile address. In this case, there is no conflict between your address and your domicile. Take a moment to consider whether you have the other factors in your favor. Are you really a Texan? South Dakotan? Floridian?
Some of you may want to use the mail service but not use it as your domicile address. Perhaps you only want the service but wish to retain your current domicile. Don’t let this article stop you from getting the mail service. You can reap all the benefits of the mail service and also keep your domicile. You simply need to list the mail service address as a mailing address for your accounts and documents. Make sure your domicile address is also included on the record. Using a mail service is a rational choice when full-time RVing. There is a specific articulable reason for your decision to receive your mail through the mail service address. Again, ensure you have sufficient factors pointing to your domicile state.
Despite the various methods of receiving your mail, please know you will need to establish a domicile address, and that domicile address should be on everything. In an abundance of caution, always make sure that your domicile address is reflected on your all documents.
Miri Kim Wakuta
Miri Kim Wakuta is a California-licensed attorney. She is of counsel to Loring & Associates. Through her time as a litigator, she gained extensive trial experience. Her experience ranges from immigration, bankruptcy, civil, estate planning and child dependency law. She discovered her fascination with domicile issues arguing jurisdiction and venue issues in court.