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Warning to California operators who....

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#1 Michael Stumpf

Michael Stumpf

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 03:44 PM

decide to purchase gear from outside the country!!

Short back story:

In early 2003 I decided to "purchase" some new steadicam gear from
England to "upgrade" my old gear. I was "purchasing" site unseen so there was a possiblity
I would not want to keep the gear and would want to return it.
That happened to be the case as it was not what I wanted or hoped for.
(Those of you who were around prior to 2003 know the deal).

Well, after sending a wire transfer for over $21,000 USD I returned
the gear and got most of my money back.

Well, last week I got a letter from the
State of California
Board of Equalization

The letter in short was a "Usage Tax" collection.
Basically, the State of California (the greediest state in the nation to
US Citizens, but if your illegal they give you so much, but that's another story)
of course wants a piece of EVERYTHING. They wanted a "usage tax" on
the gear I "purchased" and "used" in California.
Not coincidentally it equalled 8.25% the exact same rate as our
sales tax we pay on anything we buy!

I spoke to the Board of Equalization about this.
The woman stated, "it's basically a sales tax on anything bought
outside the country (or even state) but used in the state of California."

She went on to tell me they FINALLY got the computer system upgraded that
links themselves to the US Customs Agency!

Therefore, beware, if you decide you are going to purchase ANYTHING outside the
country and not pay taxes on it, you are mistaken.
I luckily had proof that I did not "buy" the gear and "use" it in the state and
that I returned the gear.
The only way around this tax if you are going to buy and "use" anything bought
outside the country is to lie to the US Customs and place the declared value of
anything you buy outside the US as ridiculously low.
The drawback here then is, that's all FedEx/UPS, etc will
place as the declared value on their paperwork as well. Should the gear be lost
or damaged, you'll be potentially out a boatload of money!

Good thing I kept my paperwork, because it would have REALLY sucked to have to
pay over $1700.00 in "use taxes" for something I did not buy and use in the State of
This state is unbelievable, a resident can't even have a garage sale without having to PAY
the state for a permit...then of course they'll want to see receipts so they can TAX
you on what you sold at your garage sale.

Anyway, that's it, just a "buyer of out of country goods" beware as the state of California
and the US Customs are NOW computer interwined and you'll pay a tax on
anything you buy overseas!

Take care,

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#2 Marc_Abernathy


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Posted 10 May 2006 - 06:39 PM

haa this is amazing! Lou Dobbs should hear about this...
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#3 mattmarek


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Posted 10 May 2006 - 07:35 PM

would it not be cheaper to just fly over and pick it up yourself and inspect the gear on the spot? save yourself the shipping and customs as well as have a better idea of the gear itself.
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#4 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 08:58 PM

Well maybe. But flying to Europe in order to purchase something and
then trying to bring it into the US will not be cheap.
Plus you'd still have to go through Customs.

The bottom line is, if you live in California, don't think
you're not going to get stuck with paying taxes on something
you buy overseas.
California now has ways of collecting (what they think) is their
due on something you did NOT buy here.

Wish they'd be so diligent about having their police and
law enforcement computers hooked up to the
Federal Governments computers to track illegal
activity as well as any Federal crime as well.

I think they'll primarily go after big ticketed items (large
expenses) anyway. Kind of like the IRS, they're not
going to audit someone over a hundred dollar discrepancy.
Several thousands on the other hand, red flags them.
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