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?

  • U.S. tax is levied on worldwide income, so I would expect worldwide expenses can be deducted. There is nothing on this page stating that you can't deduct things based on location.
    – Peter K.
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 15:26
  • 1
    The page refers to the business deduction. This possibly depends upon whether your income is a salary income or business income. Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 12:10

2 Answers 2


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.

  • 2
    That's not "business expenses", that's "unreimbursed employee expenses". Other than that you're right except for the fact that these expenses must be at the employer's request, and not just "in preparation". If the OP is a contractor and is self-employed tax wise, then its business expenses and there's no AGI limitation.
    – littleadv
    Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 6:25
  • I learn something every day. Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 17:35

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