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wa_desert_rat

Washington State as a F/Ter Domicile

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When the subject of selecting a domicile for a full time RV lifestyle comes up the states of Florida, Texas and South Dakota are mentioned. I'd like to make a case for the state of Washington.

 

Located in the far NW corner of the USA, Washington is divided almost in two by the Cascade Mountains and this gives the state two very different climate areas. In general, the west side of the state is wetter and the east side of the state is dryer. This, by no means, describes it all as there are also mountains on the eastern side (to the north). Walla Walla, in the far SE corner of the state, remains warmer in winter due to its location on the Snake River and relatively low elevation.

 

When I say that the western side is "wetter" that is a general term. Seattle, for instance, gets less annual rainfall than Washington, D.C.; as well as virtually every other city on the eastern seaboard (between 40 and 50 inches on average). And even the much wetter areas of the state (the Olympic Peninsula, for example) are far less wet during the summer than during the fall, winter and spring. In fact, during the summer WA - even the western side - is pretty sunny and comfortable. But Seattle leads US cities above 250,000 population for rainfall in November.

 

Of course, by November you'll be somewhere sunny, won't you? :P

 

This means that, in addition to the tax benefits you'll get by domiciling in WA, the state is actually a comfortable place to live during the summer; the time when SD, FL and TX are not very comfortable for living. And it's not all that bad in the winter, either. At least on the west side of the mtns. Just as an example, last weekend the high in Long Beach, WA was 58F and the low was 54F and that is not at all unusual for even the winter over there.

 

So it is not at all inconceivable that you can winter in WA if you need to without an RV especially configured for cold weather if you need to for medical or family reasons.

 

WA also has an abundance of RV parks including state, county and municipal parks that remain open even in the winter (although most will offer only electricity). Not to mention a goodly assortment of Thousand Trails campgrounds and some other membership campgrounds (more on those later).

 

So now, what about tax advantages?

 

1. No state income tax.

2. About average state sales tax (8% or less depending upon community).

3. Relatively low yearly licensing fees. Our motor home, a DP, is $90 a year and all of our cars, SUVs and one pickup are about $40 a year.

 

Electricity rates vary between areas but average under 9-cents per kwH. However, where we live, electricity rates are 4-cents per killwatthour! The counties of Grant (Moses Lake), Chelan (Wenatchee) and Douglas (across the Columbia River from Wenatchee) all own and control dams which offset residential power costs.

 

Even though these 3 counties are on the eastern side of the Cascades - with more sun and more hot weather in the summer - you can afford to use your air conditioners. And since the night time temperatures everywhere in the state go down at night you can sleep well with the a/c off and the windows open.

 

Vehicle inspections are not required for most counties in the state. The highly populated counties on the eastern side of Puget Sound do require them (basically, Seattle, Olympia and Everett). The SKP Co-Op park (Evergreen COHO) is located in a county that does not require them, by the way.

 

Health facilities are excellent with the University of Washington medical center as well as the world-famous Hutchison cancer center located in Seattle.

 

For a "home-base" situation, even though real estate in populated areas can be expensive, property in rural areas can be quite inexpensive. And there are at least two major Camping Clubs (in addition to the SKP park) where you can buy a lot with the right to live on it for six months a year. One of these is Port Susan Camping Club (https://portsusancamping.org/) and the other is Lake Connor Park (http://www.lakeconnorpark.net/). Both are located about 30 to 40 miles north of Seattle and both have memberships for sale (along with a site) for as little as $1500 (Port Susan) and $5,000 (Lake Connor). There are yearly fees associated with these sites and a time limit for access (usually six months).

 

The only real drawback to FT domicile in WA is the driver's license issue. WA wants a street address (not a mail drop address) and will ask for proof in the form of a utility bill, etc. However, I know that there are WA residents who live on islands in the San Juans and who do not have a street address yet get driver's licenses so there is some sort of accommodation there. It might be possible to use a camping club address (since both Port Susan and Lake Connor Park offer mail forwarding). In 2010 there was a change in the law to allow people who have valid social security cards to not be required to show proof of actual residency. This might not be in effect however.

 

So, if the driver's license issue can be solved, I think that the case for using WA as an official domicile for full-time RVers can be made effectively. Plus the state makes an excellent place to survive the summer when many RVers look for a cooler location than their winter haunts.

 

WDR

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As far as a street address, I just renewed our PO box in the state of Washington and was given the option to sign up for their " street addressing service for your PO Box". It says you have the option of using the street address of the Post Office location for your mailing address in addition to your PO Box number. It says you can use the street address to receive most packages and deliveries through private carriers such as UPS and FedEx. It gives an example for the address that would be : Post office address then, # po box number , city, state and zip. It goes on to say you can't use the street address option as your physical residence or place of business in legal documents. I don't know if that would mean for a drivers license you couldn't use this. It wouldn't hurt to inquire.

Edited by Debbie Siems

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I'm with the rat on this one however the future could be a bit bleak it the rumors are true that the governor is considering two initiatives or changes that may make the state less attractive:

 

1) returning to a taxing structure for registration similar to the old commercial vehicle/recreation vehicle program of the 90's. This one could effectively quadruple fees for RV's

2) restructuring the state's Discover Pass program increasing fees and expanding the requirements. This one could double the annual state parks pass to $60 and widen the separations between the other pass entities (F&G and DNR).

 

Granted these things usually are brought up and discussed about half way through every governor's term it could carry greater weight this coming year as the budget causes some belt tightening.,

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I'm with the rat on this one

Uh... that's Mr. Rat :D:P

 

The "Discover Pass" thing doesn't affect campers... just day-use visitors.

 

The voters of WA cut back those '90s fees (my wife's parents spent $3,000 a year just on license registration... my 1993 Harley motorcycle cost $600 a year to license... and I rode it 3 months a year) and rightly so. If they raise it we'll just have to send them another message.

 

WDR

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Uh... that's Mr. Rat :D:P

 

The "Discover Pass" thing doesn't affect campers... just day-use visitors.

 

Well, kinda:

 

Exemptions

Your purchase of the Discover Pass supports recreation on state lands. However, you do not need to purchase the pass under the following circumstances:

  • If you are camping or renting overnight accommodations, including vacation houses, environmental learning centers, yurts, and cabins, you will not need a Discover Pass for access to the state park where you are staying for the duration of your stay. If you visit other state parks in the area or other state recreation lands managed by WDFW or DNR, a Discover Pass will be required.

 

Also, how ever you get by with $40. per year on a vehicle....good job! My truck (2001 Dodge 2500 4x4 diesel) is $80. per year for stickers, and every 7 years they require you to replace the plate at your cost, of course.

 

I'm not saying Washington is bad....I live here on the east side and, for the most part, it's wonderful....even the winters.

We do have one of the highest cell phone tax rates in the nation though. I'm sure everyone can find good and/or bad

about each state.

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Also, how ever you get by with $40. per year on a vehicle....good job! My truck (2001 Dodge 2500 4x4 diesel) is $80. per year for stickers, and every 7 years they require you to replace the plate at your cost, of course.

 

I just did my 1994 Dodge 2500 Diesel pickup with new plates around $75. Not sure why you had to pay $80 since a pickup truck is the same as a car up to 4,000 lbs. Here is the schedule: http://www.dol.wa.gov/vehicleregistration/fees.html#registration

 

Motor homes are $111.75 and travel trailers $36.75.

 

WDR

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Do you work for the chamber of commerce or the tourism board? :D

No more that those who keep insisting that SD, TX and FL are the best places to domicile. :)

 

My point is that WA is competitive in most respects AND you can live there year around without encountering climate issues (unless you just hate cloudy days).

 

Besides... if we get more full-time RVers in the state then the state might start to view the group as a valuable asset; especially if we all spend time in-state. Which makes it more difficult for politicians to decide that motor homes and big pickup trucks make an easy target. :)

 

WDR

Edited by wa_desert_rat

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WA and TX have pretty similar sales tax burdens but WA has no state income tax; TX does.

 

 

WDR

 

Actually - NO, Texas does not have a state income tax. That's one of the reasons so many people choose Texas as their domicile.

 

That fact can easily be ascertained by performing an internet search on "What states do not have an income tax".

 

Don

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Actually - NO, Texas does not have a state income tax. That's one of the reasons so many people choose Texas as their domicile.

 

That fact can easily be ascertained by performing an internet search on "What states do not have an income tax".

 

Don

Oddly enough I did do a search but read it incorrectly... you're right and I'll edit the post above to reflect that.

 

WDR

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What Washington lacks is dedicated Mail forwarding service that can act as a LEGAL physical address, in an area that doesn't require emission testing.

 

Barb

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What Washington lacks is dedicated Mail forwarding service that can act as a LEGAL physical address, in an area that doesn't require emission testing.

 

Barb

Well... all you need is a legal physical address. Once you have that you can then have the Post Office forward mail from that to another location that will forward mail. If all that comes to that address is whatever the Department of Licensing sends you, then you can have a mail forwarding service somewhere else do the rest.

 

And, as I mentioned in my original post, the DoL does make some accommodation for people - quite a large number of people, actually - who live on the various islands in Puget Sound. Those folks have no legal street address yet they can get driver's licenses. I don't know exactly how they do it but I know they do. It would be worth it to check that out. :)

 

WDR

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Now going into our 29th year here in Puget Sound, I would not pick WA as a home/domicile state. Simply too wet, damp and cold. While the total amount of rain may compare to other places as the OP notes, it's drowning by a billion drops that seems to go on and on from October thru May that is a real detraction. Granted we would be in the southern states during this period, but we're just tired of it... really tired of it!

 

Then there is the huge increase in population, the vast majority of which is jammed into the Seattle corridor which has little room left, and some of the worst traffic in the US. Lastly is the hard swing left in recent years from the more moderate governing perspective. No doubt the no state income tax is a bonus, but IMO, that may be on borrowed time.

 

Just one forum members opinion... worth exactly what you paid for it. :)

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I might add that WA has no requirement for a special license to operate an RV of whatever size. No air-brake requirement either. There is no "Class A" or "Class B" or "R" non-commercial license in Washington state.

 

WDR

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Now going into our 29th year here in Puget Sound, I would not pick WA as a home/domicile state. Simply too wet, damp and cold. While the total amount of rain may compare to other places as the OP notes, it's drowning by a billion drops that seems to go on and on from October thru May that is a real detraction. Granted we would be in the southern states during this period, but we're just tired of it... really tired of it!

 

Then there is the huge increase in population, the vast majority of which is jammed into the Seattle corridor which has little room left, and some of the worst traffic in the US. Lastly is the hard swing left in recent years from the more moderate governing perspective. No doubt the no state income tax is a bonus, but IMO, that may be on borrowed time.

 

Just one forum members opinion... worth exactly what you paid for it. :)

I was just in Seattle traffic - on a Sunday - and understand what you say. But, like a coin, there are two sides to WA and if you want out of the hustle-and-bustle the east side is a breath of fresh air; literally. Plus there are the 300 days of sunshine, the fishing, the hunting, Jeep trails, lakes for jet skis and water skiing, and on and on. Central WA is where people from Puget Sound go to play and get away from the crowds. Of course, they crowd a lot of those places...

 

So the trick is to know that Puget Sounders love trees. They love trees so much that any place that doesn't have trees they think is "flat"; because they confuse being able to see farther than 500 feet with geography. So you drive east 'til there are no trees... and go another hour or so... and you'll find no crowds and lots of sun. Oh... it's not at all flat. Maybe it is where they put the highways (when they could) but that flat part doesn't extend very far.

 

And the State Constitution actually mandates NO INCOME TAX! So the legislators cannot simply write a law (and they've tried). It takes a vote of the people in addition to a vote in the Legislature and, so far, we have not been stupid enough to let them get away with it. Mostly because they always just want to "lower" the sales tax when they institute an income tax. It's not hard to see through that ruse! Three years down the line we'd have the sales tax right back to where it was PLUS the income tax. So we vote it down - by a large margin - every time they think we've become stupid.

 

And ya, the Seattle politics is a little left of center. But the politics east of the Cascades makes up for it. :P

 

WDR

Edited by wa_desert_rat

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If you can't do a driver's license, and there isn't a good forwarding service, it's not in play. Not even under consideration. It doesn't matter how wonderful it may be in other respects.

 

The primary reason FL, SD, and TX are the states always talked about is that they are pretty much the only three states that offer those basic requirements.

 

Just imo.

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From my perspective the state is becoming too conservative. No Dan Evans republicans anymore.

 

I grew up with Sens Magnuson & Jackson . Sen. Magnuson made sure the COE dredged the Skagit river for towing.

 

No, the Post Office won't forward your mail for years. If there was a decent mail service geared to RVers, we'd love to. Be Washingtonians again. After all, my great grandfather's first wife was a Mercer girl.

 

Barb

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I'll have to call DoL and find out how they deal with the folks who live on Hat Island (off Everett), Blakely Island (off Lopez), Brown Island (Friday Harbor, San Juan Island), Canoe Island... all tiny islands occupied by several houses with their own road systems. How do those people get drivers' licenses since they don't have street addresses? Sounds like a Monday chore.

 

WDR

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You keep emphasizing how nice the weather is and how nice it is to live there; but 90% of fulltimers rarely visit their domicile except a few days to obtain and renew their DL. So the weather , cheap electricity and living conditions are irrelevant to being a good legal domicile while on the road fulltime.

The 8% WA state sales tax is also not a "tax advantage", with many other more tax friendly states in the 3-6% range (a big difference on a $250,000 MH). The requirement of a physical street address is enough by itself to eliminate many possible domicile states.

While I agree that WA and the NW are a great place to visit, tour and possible homebase after fulltiming, it has little to compete with SD, TX, FL as a legal domicile. The reason 99% of fulltimers use either SD, TX or FL as domicile, is because those 3 states already have fulltimer friendly policies, existing fulltimer services, and lower cost taxes & fees. Most of us evaluate a purely legal domicile location under completely separate qualifications than those considered for a nice place to visit, tour, or homebase.

For someone that's already got a WA connection, I can understand trying to make it work as a domicile. But for others, I don't see it as a real contender until WA eliminates the requirement for a physical address, has a professional mail forwarding business, and lowers their sales tax rate.

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One should use a "Change of Address" and not "forwarding" when using the USPS. Change of address is available for temporary (6-months) and can be renewed and changed online.

Change of address can also be selected as "permanent" (which is not applicable to our genre).

I hope that this isn't quibbling over terminology. . .but to the post office it does make a difference.

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Actually the State is run by 4 counties, those being King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Clark Counties. Those counties now pretty much mirror California in the way they lean. In other words, WAY LIBERAL. This is only going to get worse with time. Sorry but if it had been this way 30+ years back I would never have moved here. Actually not real sure how much longer I will continue to live here with the way the State is being Governed. Just one citizens .02.

 

Joe

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I know where you are coming from Joe, I left many years ago and have no desire to ever move back. Friends and family that stayed keep me up with enough news that I am ever so happy to be gone.

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One should use a "Change of Address" and not "forwarding" when using the USPS. Change of address is available for temporary (6-months) and can be renewed and changed online.

Are you telling us that you can use a temporary change of address over and over in place of using a mail service?

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If you already have a driver's license from another state it turns out that you don't need a street address to get a WA driver's license. Your Social Security Number is enough: http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/moving.html. You will need to be IN the state in order to do this. (But you also need to be IN the states of TX, SD and FL to establish a domicile there.)

 

There are email forwarding services in WA. Traveling Mailbox has a Seattle address. http://travelingmailbox.com/addresses#can-i-receive-mail-from-banks-and-government-institutions-such-as-the-irs. However, since you no longer need to prove a street address it may be possible to use any mail forwarder (including SKP).

 

If you own a motor home with a GVW exceeds 26,001 pounds you do not have to get a special driver's license; a regular driver's license will do. No test required if presenting from any US state (see link for others).

 

License registration renewal fees per year for a motor home (regardless of weight) registered in WA are $111.75 plus $5 if you renew at an agent. http://www.dol.wa.gov/vehicleregistration/fees.html

 

(Renwals in TX are a lot higher file:///home/craig/Downloads/FeeChart_1C.pdf

 

You can renew WA vehicle license tabs online: https://fortress.wa.gov/dol/tabs/

 

The only question now is whether there is a mail-forwarder outside the counties that require a vehicle inspection that will be acceptable to the WA DoL. (You do not need an inspecation in WA - even in counties that require it - if your diesel RV is newer than 2007 or older than 1990 (25 years old or older). http://www.emissiontestwa.com/e/faq.aspx#3

 

If you like TX or SD or FL that's fine. And if you don't like WA that's fine too. But for full-timers who live west of the Rockies and who do not want to go to TX for a vehicle registration inspection or to take the Class A or Class B non-commercial driver's license examination to operate a motor home weighin more than 26,000 pounds. Or to SD (you must be present in SD for 24 hours in order to establish a domicile there) or to FL then WA is a viable alternative.

 

WDL

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