By Donna Gehrke-White, Sun Sentinel
Unhappy about taxes?
Just talk to Montreal folks who face a 46 percent tax rate if they earn at least $80,200 in taxable income this year. South Floridians pay almost half that rate in federal income taxes. Families in Montreal also pay more than South Floridians in sales and property taxes.
They and many other Canadians are looking to South Florida to shield their money from taxes — especially with a thousand baby boomers retiring a day in Canada.
So says Bob Keats, a financial planner who runs a Boynton Beach office to help Canadian transplants like himself and has just written A Canadian’s Best Tax Haven: The U.S. – Take your money and DRIVE.
Florida’s no income tax, combined with low property taxes and a 6 percent sales tax rate in Broward and Palm Beach counties are encouraging Canadians to establish roots here, he said.
At least 86,000 Canadians have already bought property in the Sunshine State, many, if not most, buying in South Florida, Keats said.
That number does not include properties purchased through corporations, trusts, partnerships or by Canadians who live year round in Florida, Keats said.
Those other owners “would probably double this 86,000,” Keats added. “In fact, along Hollywood beach you can hardly go 10 feet without hearing Canadians speaking French.”
A Sun Sentinel analysis found more than 18,000 Canadians owned homes in Broward as of 2011 — triple the number from just five years earlier.
“Canadians have found it so irresistible to purchase real estate [here],” said Keats, adding “The exchange rate is the best it has been in 30 years.”
South Florida representatives from RBC Bank — or the Royal Bank of Canada as it is known north of the U.S. border — travel up to Canada to speak to packed audiences about U.S. taxes, buying a home here and other financial matters, said Alain Forget, RBC vice president and head of sales and business development.
Some Canadians wait to buy cars until they travel to South Florida, saving thousands of dollars in sales tax, he said.
Taxes are especially high in the Quebec province where sales tax is more than 15 percent, even on food, which is not taxed in Florida, said a Canadian transplant, real estate agent D. Blais-Grossman of Coral Springs.
“It’s almost a sin,” she said. “A bottle of great red wine, Menage a Trois, for example, is sold for approximately $9 a bottle here. In the province of Quebec, it’s $20.”
Blais-Grossman helps Canadians find South Florida homes to buy. Some are looking to retire in the next few years but want to buy a home now while South Florida prices are low, Blais-Grossman said.
David Levine of Wellington moved from Toronto to give tax advice to fellow Canadians at author Keat’s financial services office in Boynton Beach. He appreciates the low taxes — as well as low in-state tuition.
This fall, his son is going to the University of Florida instead of the University of Toronto.
UF is cheaper, Levine said.
Plus, his son “has gotten used to the weather down here,” he added.