Wintering in Florida: What you need to know as a snowbird

16 March 2022 by National Bank
A retired woman enjoys the sunset on the beach in Florida

Do you dream about a retirement where you can swap the cold and snow for sunshine and sandy beaches? We hear you. Whether you opt to spend your winters in Florida or another sunshine destination in the U.S., here's what you should know before leaving. When it comes to health and finances, a snowbird forewarned is a snowbird forearmed.

What's the maximum length of time a snowbird can stay in the United States?

There's no maximum, as such. But if you exceed a certain number of days, you could be subject to tax as a resident of the United States. You might also lose certain privileges in Canada. Depending on the length of your stay, it's possible that you may:

  • have to file a U.S. tax return
  • have to pay income tax (in accordance with tax treaties in force)
  • lose your health insurance coverage (we'll come back to this)

How not to become a resident for tax purposes of the United States

As a snowbird, it's best not to spend more than 182 days in the United States over a three-year period. How the 182 days is calculated, however, is rather unusual. Here's how the U.S. government does the calculation:

  • They take the total number of days you spent there in the current year (e.g., in 2022)
  • Then they add one-third (⅓) of the days spent there the previous year (e.g., 2021)
  • Finally, they add one-sixth (⅙) of the days you spent there the year before that (e.g., 2020)

Here's how to calculate the 3-year total for someone who spends about 4 months a year in the United States:

  • 4 months in 2022: about 120 days
  • 4 months in 2021: about 40 days (⅓ of 4 months)
  • 4 months in 2020: about 20 days (⅙ of 4 months)

Total: about 180 days. This falls just below the 182-day limit

Advice for Canadian snowbirds: If you're close to the 182-day limit, bear in mind that every day you're on U.S. soil is included in the calculation. Even if you're only there for part of a day on the day you fly home, it's still counted as a full day.

Can I get a tax exemption if I exceed the 182-day limit?

If you exceed the 182-day limit, you can request an exemption. Complete form 8840 from the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). 

The goal of the Closer Connection Exception Statement for Aliens form is to inform U.S. authorities that your stays in the U.S. are temporary, that you have a closer connection to a foreign country, and your residence for tax purposes is outside the U.S. The decision is based on each person's individual circumstances, including:

  • Your principal place of residence
  • Where you are registered to vote
  • The country that issued your passport
  • Where your driver’s license was issued
  • Where your family is located
  • Where your bank accounts are held
  • Where your personal belongings (automobiles, furniture, etc.) are located


a National Bank subsidiary with branches in Florida

Do I keep my Canadian health insurance coverage?

It all depends on the specifics of the public health insurance in your province or territory and the duration of your stay outside Canada.

Also, keep in mind that even if you retain your coverage, certain medications or medical procedures may not be covered or only be partially covered.

Do I need additional health insurance coverage?

Yes, definitely. Your Canadian public health insurance doesn't cover everything and the cost of health care south of the border is very high. It's not uncommon for an emergency hospitalization to set someone back tens of thousands of dollars. 

Expert advice: Make sure you have sufficient medical coverage before you head to Florida or any other place in the United States.

Your travel credit card may have emergency medical care coverage or offer travel assistance when you're outside Canada. Contact your card issuer to learn more.

Should I open a U.S. dollar bank account?

You don't have to, but if you spend your winters in Florida, you may find it's easier on your wallet. Opening a U.S. dollar bank account could:

  • Simplify your transactions there
  • Help you save on foreign exchange fees

Did you know that National Bank has a presence in the south?

Like many other Canadian financial institutions, we have a subsidiary in the U.S. Natbank in Florida, offers a wide range of banking services for individuals (like snowbirds) and businesses. This can be very practical if you plan to buy a car or winter home there.

Buying a winter home or rental property in Florida

A warning for snowbirds buying a rental property in Florida: You'll likely have taxes, including income tax, to pay.

General rule: There will be a withholding tax of about 30% of the gross rental amount. This even applies if you rent your Florida condo to family members, even your favourite sibling.

Filing a tax return in the United States 

This option allows you to deduct certain expenses, like mortgage interest and property taxes, from your rental income. You'll also have to declare this income in Canada, but there are tax credits that could help you avoid being taxed twice.

Tax specialists can help you make the best choice based on your situation.

Many of us dream about spending our winters down south when we retire. No matter where you decide to go, be it Florida or another sunshine destination, you'll need to do a lot of thinking and preparing. Once you have all the information you need, you can leave without any worries. We’re here to answer your questions.

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Need advice?

Our team will be happy to assist you, in person or remotely. 

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