Establish Residency, Vote and Drive

Establishing Residency
There are six ways to establish your Florida resident status:
– Obtain a Florida Driver’s License and Automobile Registration
– Register to vote
– File your federal income tax return in Florida
– File your intangible tax return in Florida
– Redraft your will showing your Florida residence and have it notarized
– File a declaration of domicile with the county records division.

Voter Registration
If you are at least 18 years of age, a citizen of the U.S. and a resident of Okaloosa or Walton County, you are eligible to become a registered voter. Voter registration books are open year round, however you must register at least 30 days before an election to be eligible to vote in that election.

Registration is available through the County Elections Office. There are many satellite registration sites throughout the counties. For more information call (850)651-7272 in Okaloosa County and (850)892-8112 in Walton County.

Driver’s Licenses
The State of Florida requires that new residents obtain a Florida driver’s license within 30 days of establishing residence, becoming employed or registering a child in school.

Drivers must be at least 16 years old to qualify for a driver’s license; 15 years old to get a restricted permit. First time drivers must complete a drug, and alcohol education class, which is offered at most high schools. Those under the age of 18 must also furnish proof that they are either in school or a high school graduate.

To obtain a Florida Driver’s license, first register your automobile in the State of Florida. Bring proof of your Florida registration, your social security number and your valid, out-of-state license to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Drivers with a valid license are just required to take and pass a vision test. If your license has expired, be prepared to take a traffic laws test, along with vision, hearing and (sorry) even a road test.

Appointments are recommended, residents of Okaloosa County may call (850)833-9123 and residents of Walton County may call (850)892-8085 to schedule an appointment.

License Plates/Vehicle Registration
Florida tags must be purchased within 10 days of establishing residence, employment or enrollment of a child in school. Bring your title, registration, proof of insurance and your vehicle identification number to the Tax Collector’s office. For more information or office locations call (850)651-7300 in Okaloosa County and (850)892-8121 in Walton County.

Rules of the Road
Lights on! When driving in the rain (day or night), at dusk or in fog, full headlights are required. In Florida, a right turn on a red light is permitted after a full stop, unless specifically prohibited by sign or signal.

Seat belts are required. All front seat occupants of cars, pick-up trucks and vans must buckle up or the driver faces fines. Children age six and under must be buckled up regardless of where they are sitting. Children ages four and five must be secured in either a seat belt or approved child restraint seat; children under the age of four must be secured in an approved car seat. Again, failure to keep your children buckled may result in significant fines.

Florida police may immediately seize the license of anyone arrested for driving under the influence or anyone refusing to submit to a breath, blood or urine test. Driving under the influence is defined by a .08 percent blood alcohol concentration.

Tax Information
Florida still offers it’s residents several tax advantages. There is no state income tax, gift tax or inheritance tax (except for that portion of the federal tax returned to the state by the federal government).

Sales Tax
Sales tax in Florida is currently six percent. Food, medicine and professional services are exempt. Okaloosa County has exercised its option of charging an additional penny sales tax. The funds will be used for the construction of new schools.

Homestead Exemption
Filing for residency makes you eligible to receive Florida’s Homestead Exemption. This provision allows full-time Florida residents to exempt the first $25,000 of their home’s value from property and school taxes. First time applicants must file in person at the property appraiser’s office by the end of February. Specific documentation is required, so call ahead for information. Okaloosa County (850)689-5900, Walton County (850)892-8123

Intangible Tax
Florida levies a tax on stocks, bonds and other securities at a rate of 1 mill, or $1 per $1000 of value. The tax is assessed on the value of your assets on January 1 of each year.

If the value of your intangible property is less than $20,000 for an individual or $40,000 for a couple filing jointly, no tax is levied.

If your intangible assets are greater than $100,000 an additional 1 mill ($2 per $1000) is assessed on just the value over $100,000. Returns must be filed by June 30 and the tax is delinquent if not paid by July 1. Mail your payment directly to the Florida Department of Revenue, Tallahassee, FL 32399-­0100. For more information on Florida’s intangible tax, contact the Department of Revenue at (850)488-6800.

Since Florida does not have an inheritance tax, your heirs may benefit if you transfer your securities and personal property to this state. To do this you must first become a legal resident. For more information, please contact your attorney.

For Our Seniors
There are many communities, residential centers and services available here for seniors. AARP Tax Aide provides seniors with free assistance in completing their income tax returns. Another program designed for seniors is the 55/Alive Mature Driving program. These classes are designed to help mature drivers enhance their driving skills. Under Florida statutes, drivers over 65 who take one of these state approved driving courses can earn a three year discount on their auto insurance premiums.

Guide to Pet Licenses
Dogs and cats four months and older must be registered and vaccinated yearly. Licenses are available through your local veterinarian or the county. Leash laws are strictly enforced. Call the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) (850)243-1525; in Walton County call the Humane Society at (850)892-7873 for information.