It's all a matter of if you get caught. If you buy it here you are supposed to pay the sales tax. Technically you are not eligible for the 3%production tax rate; that was intended for post production and television studios. GPI would not give that to Steadicam ops in the past (I'm not sure what they do now) but if Tiffen is willing that would be a savings. They might be willing to ship it out of state with you paying directly. Some companies won't do it. But here's the thing: if you don't pay tax in California now you are required to pay Use Tax on out of state purchases that you use in state OR you can register with the California Board of Equalization and charge sales tax when you rent your Steadicam. Much paperwork and unhappy clients. It's really a matter of whether you get audited and caught, then you will have to pay penalties and interest but probably no jail time, hehe. Also California is being very aggressive in collecting Use Tax and LA County in collecting Business Tax based on a percentage of your sales. They need your hard earned $.
The tax you might pay IS deductible when you depreciate the entire cost of your business purchase (whether you do it all at once or spread it out over many years)
One thing I did hear anecdotally was if you use the purchase that you bought out of state on location in another state within 3 months of purchase you do not have to pay the Use Tax. Nut sure if it's true but you could call the BOE to confirm.
Eric, we all know you are a fine operator and I enjoy reading your posts. Unless you are getting points from Showtime, is it possible to see them without having to look at giant Dexter YouTube links? No need for self promotion here; we're not hiring.