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I am planning on buying a second hand computer monitor off Craigslist. I would use it for my work as a contractor. What steps should I take to be able to write it off as a business expense? I can take a screen shot of the website. I was thinking of asking for a receipt but hypothetically if it just says the amount I paid, that can be forge very easily.

Bit of an aside, why are people so reluctant to buy things of second hand websites like Craigslist? People go crazy over a deal in a store but these prices can be way cheaper. The box for this monitor hasn't been opened so I'm confident it's new.

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    WRT the aside, why would someone be selling a "new", unopened box anything for cheap on Craigslist, instead of taking it back to the store for a full refund? The obvious answer would seem to be because they stole it, no? – jamesqf May 22 '20 at 16:17
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    @jamesqf perhaps but I'd say that's jumping to conclusions. Sometimes they even have the receipt of purchase. – Latchar3 May 22 '20 at 16:21
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    I wouldn't say it's "jumping", rather a reasoned guess from limited data. Still begs the question of why the people with receipts don't take it back for a refund. – jamesqf May 22 '20 at 19:00
  • Tax questions require a country tag. – Chris W. Rea May 22 '20 at 19:41
  • @jamesqf I once bought a $100 cartridge of laser printer toner because the current one was running out. As it happened, my printing needs slowed down, and the current one ran for a few more months, and then I moved and forgot about the toner. It was still in the shipping carton but was well past return window when I rediscovered it with the receipt taped to the box. Life sometimes happens when you buy supplies or equipment. – user662852 May 22 '20 at 19:57
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I would ask the seller for a receipt. If the seller won't do that you could use your emails with the seller and the screenshot to document the purchase.

I don't know what the IRS would consider to be sufficient documentation, but it seems like a low risk.

The chance of you being audited is quite low, and even if you were and the IRS found that the documentation of the purchase was not sufficient, it wouldn't be that big of a deal. You'd just have to adjust your takes to exclude the monitor as a business expense.

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  • What would be on the receipt? Just the date and the fact that I paid e.g. $150? Does it need a signature? – Latchar3 May 22 '20 at 17:24
  • That and some identification of the seller. Most receipts don't have signatures so probably not needed. – gaefan May 22 '20 at 18:25
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Yes, in the US, this is a business expense. Look into taking a Section 179 deduction, this will likely qualify. A written receipt is fine. It is very unlikely this would be audited, and you have the physical item as proof. Save a copy of the ad, record of the payment, and take a photo. The receipt can be very basic: "1 computer monitor, $200, paid cash/venmo/whatever." Date it, add the seller's name, have him/her sign or initial it, done.

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