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Is Jeff Bezos moving to Florida in search of billionaire-friendly tax policies?

Bezos said he wants to live close to his parents and his fiancée

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Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is seen on the sidelines before the start of an NFL football game, Sept. 15, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is seen on the sidelines before the start of an NFL football game, Sept. 15, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. After nearly three decades, Bezos is leaving Seattle. In a Instagram post, the Amazon founder announced plans to return to Miami — where he spent his high school years — to be closer to his parents and his partner, Lauren Sánchez.

Charlie Riedel, Associated Press

Long seen as one of America’s most progressive cities, Seattle could be going through some changes after voters chose to elect candidates billed as more moderate lawmakers, who made promises to deliver results instead of idealism, in city council elections on Tuesday.

Th election comes mere days after Jeff Bezos, the owner of Seattle’s largest employer, Amazon, decided to up and move to Miami. The 59-year-old billionaire revealed his decision in an Instagram post.

Bezos began by acknowledging that Seattle has been his home since 1994 when he started his company out of his garage.

“My parents have always been my biggest supporters,” Bezos, who is worth nearly $156 billion, said. “They recently moved back to Miami, the place we lived (in) when I was younger.”

“I want to be close to my parents, and Lauren,” he said, referring to Lauren Sanchez, his fiancée, adding, “and I love Miami.”

Bloomberg reported in October that he finalized a deal to buy a $79 million mansion in Miami. It neighbors a $68 million home that he purchased earlier in June. These properties are located in Indian Creek, an area known as “Billionaire Bunker.”

Bezos added that Blue Origin, his space company currently headquartered in Kent, Washington, is moving its operations to Cape Canaveral, Florida, which also guided his decision.

Although those were the official reasons he gave for moving away from the Pacific Northwest, Bezos’ move sparked a debate about the state taxes in Washington that he will avoid.

As Fortune reported, Washington’s Supreme Court upheld a 7% tax on capital gains above $250,000 in a March ruling. Washington also has a 10% to 20% estate tax, while it explores enforcing a 1% wealth tax on assets such as stocks and bonds.

Meanwhile, Florida doesn’t have a capital gains or estate tax. Nor does it have a state income tax or a wealth tax.

Columnist Jonathan Levin argued in an opinion piece on Bloomberg that this decision “seems to be largely personal,” adding that he thinks “most of us struggle to believe it can be that simple with billionaires.” 

But, he said, the capital gains tax will “have a big impact on Bezos, who has sold down billions in Amazon.com stock over the years.”

Tax attorney Brad Gould, who is based in Florida, told MarketWatch that he has seen “many, many ultra-high-net-worth clients who have done this exact same thing, and it is mostly a tax play.”

By “ultra-high-net-worth clients,” he means those who have a network of at least $50 million.

Gould said people also flock to the Sunshine State because of business-friendly laws.

These issues are also on the minds of everyday Seattle voters, who opened their arms to business-backed candidates for city council, as early results suggest.

A report found that businesses and real estate groups spent more than $1.1 million through political action committees to support candidates who made promises of making the city safer and avoiding new taxes.

If Bezos is considering the money he would save from this decision, he wouldn’t be the first billionaire to do so. In early 2022, Elon Musk moved his home and his car company Tesla from California to Texas, where there is no state income tax.

“If a team has been winning for too long they do tend to get a little complacent, a little entitled, and then they don’t win the championship anymore,” Musk said of the Democratic Party and the deeply blue state in 2020. “California has been winning for too long.”

As Jared Walczak, vice president of state projects at the Tax Foundation, told MarketWatch, “People move for a variety of reasons,” but, he noted, “when billionaires move for whatever reason, they usually land in low-tax states.”

Still, Bezos doesn’t share the same disdain for Seattle and its politics like Musk. Or, perhaps, he is more private about it.

“I’ve lived in Seattle longer than I’ve lived anywhere else and have so many amazing memories here,” Bezos said in the social post, where he called it an “emotional decision.”

“Seattle, you will always have a piece of my heart,” he added.