Wednesday, 28 February 2024

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Moving to Florida could save Jeff Bezos at least $600 million. How Florida became ‘nirvana’ for the superrich

Moving to Florida could save Jeff Bezos at least $600 million. How Florida became ‘nirvana’ for the superrich

Jeff Bezos’s recent move from Seattle to Miami is already paying off. When the billionaire sold $2 billion worth of Amazon shares last week, he saved around $140 million in taxes, thanks to Florida’s billionaire-friendly tax code.

In that context, it’s no surprise Bezos, one of the richest men in the world, relocated from Washington state, his home for three decades and where he founded Amazon, last year. While Washington has no state income tax, in 2022 the state imposed a 7% capital gains tax on sales of certain assets including stocks or bonds of more than $250,000 (the tax brought in a reported $890 million last year). Not only does Florida not have state income tax, it doesn’t tax capital gains.

That likely won’t be his only sale this year. According to another filing with Securities and Exchange Commission, Bezos plans to sell 50 million Amazon shares total before Jan. 31, 2025, worth an estimated $8.5 billion (this initial sale was around 12 million shares). If all goes to plan—and assuming Amazon’s stock price stays the same—he will save around $600 million in taxes.

And that’s all short term. Bezos’s move to Florida also will save him significantly because the state doesn’t have an estate tax, says John Pantekidis, managing partner and general counsel at TwinFocus, which manages over $7 billion for ultrahigh-net-worth (UHNW) families. These benefits combined make the sunshine state an increasingly attractive place for high-net-worth and UHNW families to establish residence.

“For someone with that much wealth, just the estate tax savings alone can be $10 billion, never mind the income tax savings, which is ongoing,” Pantekidis says. “Florida is very, very favorable for someone like Jeff Bezos. They make it very cost effective for folks like Jeff to live down there. It’s ideal, it’s nirvana.”

To do so, Bezos will have to establish that Florida really is his new home, Pantekidis says—a potentially difficult maneuver for a man with private planes and yachts who’s frequently pictured in different places around the world. That means spending lots of time there—especially in the next few years, when the spotlight is on him for his stock sales—and doing things like registering to vote. Pantekidis says he tells clients making similar planning decisions to make the move, wait a full year, and then start selling stock, similar to what Bezos did. That looks better when they’re inevitably…

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