Fraser Trebilcock Shareholder Paul McCord won a principal residence exemption for an elderly Michigan snowbird couple. Without careful planning, a hard-earned retirement with the means to travel can cost many Michiganders who fly South to escape Michigan’s harsh winters dearly. As is generally the case, property owners that own more than one residence must take care to appropriately establish which home is their “principal residence.” The problem is often more complicated in cases of retired homeowners as they typically are not tethered to a fixed location for work or socially and travel often.
A “principal residence” in Michigan means “the one place where an owner of the property has his or her true, fixed, and permanent home to which, whenever absent, he or she intends to return."
In this Tax Tribunal case involving an elderly retired couple that frequently traveled in their RV all over the country, the Tribunal focused its analysis on the quantum of evidence used to support the home that the couple intended to always return. As PRE cases are typically heard in the Tribunal’s small claims division, McCord notes that, “it is essential to thoroughly brief and support every factual point and to assume the taxing unit would present their case in the best possible light possible focusing on elderly couple’s inconsistent use of mailing addresses, social media posts, time away from Michigan.” In this case thorough research, careful documentation and detailed legal briefing prevailed.