In this post, we will cover our experiences with a “Domicile” address, how we receive mail while on the road full-time, some pain points with getting our mail, and some pro-tips and recommendations for those currently on the road full-time as RV’ers or those looking to begin RV Life soon.
Domicile – Domicile Definition
First let’s define what a Domicile is and it’s primary purpose. According to Miriam-Webster’s dictionary, a Domicile is simply a person’s fixed, permanent, and principal home for legal purposes. Furthermore, In the eyes of the law, a domicile can also be a legal residence, the address from which one registers to vote, licenses a car, and pays income tax. All of these are critical to consider when starting the process to hit the road full-time as a RV’er. The government requires each person to pay taxes, license your car (and RV), and have a legal domicile. Unfortunately, these things are unavoidable in today’s society which can make planning a real challenge. (We’ll discuss other options, but we’ll focus mostly on our solution in this post).
Establishing a domicile if coming from a home to a RV can be easy, but there are some items you should understand. Especially from a legal standpoint. We are full-time employees, one of us is a 1099 contracted employee and the other a W2 through an employer who allows for remote home office hours. It’s important to understand as a W2 employee that your domicile is a critical piece for state income tax withholding if you will be traveling and working remotely full-time. Below are some of the main points to consider and these are mostly related to our situation as working professionals.
1. Seek legal assistance from a local real estate attorney for guidance. (this is the route we took). This attorney will be able to help draft a full legal lease and consult you on best practices to cover all your legal bases.
2. Work directly with a CPA/Tax Representative. In combination with an attorney, a CPA can provide you tax requirements related to your domicile state to cover your state withholding and property tax as you travel. We cannot stress the importance of having a solid working relationship with your CPA. (We’ll discuss in a future post about expenses and how we track our expenses related to our tax submission every year as well as how we plan quarterly tax submissions for 1099 contract work).
3. If you intend to rent your primary home while on the road in your RV, your lease should include a section stating that the home remains your primary residence while away and that your tenants understand that part of your residence (like a closet, crawl space, or attic as examples) remain in use by you for some of your belongings. Your tenants should understand this and sign the lease accordingly. For best practice, we recommend having a real estate attorney draft a lease in this scenario. Even if you plan to use a property manager (we also chose this route), it’s imperative that the real estate agent/property manager understands your intentions and you provide the lease drafted by your attorney to them for your tenants. In our situation, we have our driver’s licenses, car tags, etc registered to our primary home address with full intent to return once we are finished working and traveling on the road.
4. If you intend to sell your home, you’ll need to establish a new domicile in another state. There are several states that many full-time RV’ers (mostly those who have retired and live explicitly from their RV fulltime) establish domicile with. These states often include, Florida, South Dakota, and Texas. These states provide RV’ers without a home residence the ability to setup a domicile for car tags, taxes, and health insurance while traveling. Additionally, these states allow income tax free and will accept mail-forwarding services. (We’d suggest doing plenty of research on this if you decide to go that route). Everyone’s situation is different and it’s best to do research specific to what works best for you from a legal standpoint. There are companies that work as mail-forwarding services for folks needing to establish a domicile in one of the states mentioned above and they can assist you with other needs like health insurance, jobs, and roadside assistance too. One of the most popular is Escapees RV Club. Here are some other helpful resources for those choosing to go this route. MoneyCrashers Domicile, RV Share – State Residency, Axle Addict’s How to Establish State Residency.
How do you receive your mail while on the road full-time in your RV?
For us, receiving mail is quite the ordeal and at times very frustrating. Because our intent is to return to our primary residence (domicile), our domicile’s address is identified for our car tags, car insurance, and driver’s licenses. However, since we aren’t currently located there, we setup the USPS (United States Postal Service) to route our mail to our UPS Store Address. For those of us that are full-timers that have a home that is identified as our domicile, setting up Mail-Forwarding services at a UPS Store is your best option and the route we chose. UPS Store Personal Mailboxes and Forwarding.
Prior to leaving in our RV full-time, we visited our local UPS Store to ‘rent’ a personal mailbox for the USPS to route our mail to. What makes the UPS Store Personal Mailbox unique is that you are given an actual address (which USPS identifies as a Business Address) and not a PO Box. PO Boxes are problematic mostly for full-timers because auto registration, insurance, etc cannot be setup to a PO Box. You must have a physical address. UPS Store provides this. We setup rent on a mailbox for 2 years and the cost varies based on time and size of the mailbox you choose. Your address shows your full name along with the address of the UPS Store with your mailbox number as the identifier.
So you are probably asking…”that’s good info, but you still haven’t answered how you actually ‘get’ your mail”?
Receiving our mail is step 2 of the above process. After setting up all of our bills that are required for hard copy mailing and forwarding our address through USPS to the UPS Store, now wherever we are located we setup an actual PO Box to receive it. Complicated right?
So wait, “you have your domicile address, a UPS Store address to receive and hold your domicile mail, and now you setup a PO Box in the town you are located while traveling full-time”?
Short answer…Yep. So because we travel all over the country for work, we cannot just drive back to our local UPS Store to pick up our mail. Because of this, the UPS Store has Mail-Forwarding services as an additional option that you can setup. We setup a ‘will-call’ option and call the UPS Store at least twice a month to bundle all of our mail into a single package and mail it to the PO Box we provide them and store in our file. It’s not uncommon for us to receive mail more than a month after it was initially sent from the originator.
For mail that we need to receive in a more timely fashion, we usually just add the PO Box (if possible) where we are located so it comes directly to us. Most of our remaining bills and services online we’ve changed to electronic emails instead of paper mail to prevent paper copies from being sent.
“What are your frustrations and pain points with how you receive your mail”?
1. Some purchases we make online (like Amazon) will NOT deliver to a PO Box, forcing us to ship it to our UPS Store address and then have them forward it to the PO Box.
2. Replacement Debit/Credit Cards (if needed overnight delivery) cannot be overnighted directly to the PO Box where we are located. Fortunately, our cards are on different months for expiration so we aren’t without the ability to have money for food, etc.
3. Some campgrounds will allow you to have Amazon purchases delivered directly to the office that we can pick up later. (The frustration here is that we mostly stay at KOAs which are independently owned and operated, so they can make their own decisions on allowing to receive full-timer’s mail or not).
4. If picking up mail sent from our UPS Store personal address to our PO Box after-hours, some times the USPS office will leave a slip for you to retrieve your mail at the counter. Which you’ll have to come back the next day during business hours to pick them up.
5. UPS will deliver packages to a PO Box, FedEX will NOT.
6. Depending on how much mail we have sitting on hold at our UPS Personal Mailbox, it can be $20-$30/month that we get charged just to have our mail-forwarded.
7. Finding the time to go to the USPS to send mail or pickup mail can be headache. Especially if you have service requirements that force you to mailing paper copy documents and money orders, etc.