I was talking to an acquaintance about photography the other day. As someone who has been very passionate about photography for many years, he wanted to get more serious with this hobby and maybe become a full time photographer in the near future. Knowing that I'm a part time photographer, the conversation eventual led to camera gear that he's about to purchase.
"What do you think about Canon 5Ds, 16-35 F2.8 II, 24-70 F2.8 II and 70-200 F2.8 II?"
Since we were in front of a computer, we quickly looked up how much everything would cost.
- Canon 5Ds camera- $4,399 CAN ($3,399 US)
- Canon 16-35 F2.8 II lens- $2,159 CAN ($1,449 US)
- Canon 24-70 F2.8 II lens - $2,559 CAN ($1,749 US)
- Canon 70-200 F2.8 II lens- $2,829 CAN ($1,949 US)
For a total of 11,946 Canadian buckaroo! Since we're in BC, we need to pay 5% GST and 7% PST on top of the selling price. Meaning if my acquaintance were to buy all these camera toys brand spanking new, he'd have to pay an extra $1,433.52 on taxes for a grand total of $13,379.52.
"Holy cow, that's a lot of money, at 3% dividend yield that'd produce about $360 in annual dividend." The dividend investor nerd in me thought immediately.
"The Canon holy trinity lenses are awesome. I've used them many times before. They are great lenses that produce super sharp pictures, but they're very pricey. Have you considered buying used camera and lenses?" I asked.
"That's silly, why would I want to buy something that someone already used? I would never buy used camera gear in a million year."
Dumbfounded, I couldn't really say much about how great buying used is after his strong statement. All I could tell him was to seriously consider it if he needed all these expensive toys to become a better photographer.
In the back of my mind, I kept thinking that if he were to buy everything used at the listed price and not pay any sales taxes, that'd save him 1,433.52 buckaroo. That extra $1,433.52 he was very willing to pay would have easily gotten him another used superb Canon prime lens, or a plane ticket to Europe.
It's fine buying new, but handing over $1,400 in hard earned cash to both the federal and provincial governments without finding possible ways to reduce that amount somehow? That's just silly.
Later during our discussion, he asked about what I use for my photography business. I briefly mentioned my arsenal. He was shocked to hear that I was using a camera that was released 8 years ago (I purchased it about 3 years ago) and my bread and butter lens was released 18 years ago (I purchased it about 7 years ago).
"I'm shocked that your pictures are this good when you're using such ancient dinosaur gear."
Perhaps the dinosaur gear did make Hiroshima look like an ancient city...
But the dinosaur gear probably did just fine with the portraits.
What I didn't tell him was that I purchased all my existing camera gear used and never paid an extra cent on PST and GST. I also failed to mention that expensive camera gear do not make you a better photographer, just like how an expensive sports car doesn't automatically make you an awesome race car driver...
When I got home that day, I was very curious so I looked up the master excel sheet that I've been using to track all my photography gear expenses. It was interesting to note that when I first started photography, just like this acquaintance of mine, I was purchasing brand new gear. However, as I got more and more serious with photography and started to purchase the so-called high end professional grade gear, I began purchasing second hand camera gear to save money.
If I had purchased all my existing camera gear brand new, it would have cost me around $8,000 including taxes. However, because I purchased everything used and looked long and hard for good deals, I managed to buy everything for less than $3,500, or a saving of around $4,500. That's a lot of money that could be used for other purposes, like buying dividend paying stocks, a vacation, or car payment.
The above conversation got me thinking... are there any easy ways to not pay any taxes?
The answer is of course, YES! 🙂
To be honest, I've always hated having to pay taxes on top of the listed price. My solution? Avoid paying sales taxes whenever possible (legally of course).
As mentioned above, I purchased all my existing camera gear used. Not only did I save tons of money, I also didn't have to pay any taxes. The savings alone is mind blowing, especially when you start buying more expensive cameras, lenses, and lighting equipment.
Looking around in our house, a lot of items were purchased used as well. About 90% of the baby items like clothes, cloth diapers, crib, and toys were purchased second hand off Craigslist, thrift stores or various mom's groups. Some of mine and Mrs. T's clothes were also purchased used.
Sites like Craigslist, Kijiji, Facebook groups, and online forums are great places to find great deals on used items.
Still don't believe buying used is the easiest way to not pay any taxes and give yourself a great deal? Here's another example. About 7 years ago I purchased a Canon 17-40 F4 lens for $663.46 CAN (or $580 US given the exchange rate back then). After using this lens for 7 years, I recently sold the lens for $600 CAN. A brand new lens on Amazon goes for $749 US. That's less than 3 cents per day for "owning" this lens for 7 years.
Buy fresh produce and basic groceries
Here in BC, one does not need to pay any sales taxes on fresh produce and basic groceries. However, you need to pay the extra 12% when purchasing processed food items. I believe this is the same rule for most Canadian provinces & territories and US states too.
Buying fresh produce and basic groceries and making your own meals at home is another easy way to not pay any taxes at all.
Making your meals from scratch is also a great way to eat healthy. You know exactly what you put into your food and you have a better control of your nutritional intake. You'll be surprised how many processed food items have unnecessary ingredients and are typically high in fat, salt, and/or sugar.
Negotiate with merchants
This is probably my all time favourite. If purchasing a costly item, I often would ask the merchant if there's a discount for paying cash (must be the Asian genes in me for doing this). It doesn't hurt to ask, the worst thing that can happen is for the merchant to say no. From my experience, most big chain stores would just say no, but some stores may give a small discount. Some stores like it when customers pay with cash, since then they won't get dinged by credit card/debit card transaction fees. Some shadier stores may even go as far as waiving the sales taxes if you pay with cash (don't ask me how their accounting work).
Occasionally some stores may even advertise that they'd pay all the sales taxes as an incentive to attract customers. The Brick seems to do this every year here in Vancouver. This is a good chance to take advantage of not paying any taxes and save yourself some money.
Even if you have to pay taxes, it's worth it to ask for a small discount. Why? Because sales taxes are added after the list price. So, even a small discount of 5% on a large costly item will provide some small amount of saving. That's more money in my pocket and that always brings a smile to my face.
So there you have it, a few easy ways to not pay any taxes at all.
Dear readers, do you have any experience with not paying any taxes? Do you have any tips that you'd like to share?
Like this blog and want to get my latest posts directly in your inbox? Sign up for my newsletter here.