This year I began teaching English in Japan, but I had several hundred dollars worth of preparatory expenses, including a new computer. Are these eligible for equipment tax deductions?
A computer is a special case because the IRS thinks that you might be using it for personal applications. You may need to keep a log, or be able to state that you also have another computer for non-business use.
That said, if your schedule C shows a small profit then you don't need to itemize expenses, just state the total.
I'm not an expert, but here's my $0.02.
Deductions for business expenses are subject to the 2% rule. In other words, you can only deduct that which exceeds 2% of your AGI (Adjusted Gross Income). For example, say you have an AGI of $50,000, and you buy a laptop that costs $800. You won't get a write-off from that, because 2% of $50,000 is $1,000, and you can only deduct business-related expenses in excess of that $1,000.
If you have an AGI of $50,000 and buy a $2,000 laptop, you can deduct a maximum of $1,000 ($2,000 minus 2% of $50,000 is $2,000 - $1,000 = $1,000).
Additionally, you can write off the laptop only to the extent that you use it for business. So in other words, if you have an AGI of $50,000 and buy that $2,000 laptop, but only use it 50% for business, you can only write off $500.
Theoretically, they can ask for verification of the business use of your laptop. A log or a diary would be what I would provide, but I'm not an IRS agent.