JTB's answer to my question about big checks says that in the 1980s, they wrote a check to the IRS on a T-shirt, and the IRS did deposit it, but their bank changed them a fee.

  1. Can you still do this at some or all banks?
  2. Will all banks allow this, or only some?
  3. Is it still likely that the check writer will be charged an extra fee?
  • I’m voting to close this question because it is a legal question and is more suitable at law@SE.
    – littleadv
    Sep 4 at 4:54
  • 1
    You can also write a check on a cow, whether the banks' terms of service allow that depends on the bank. It would still probably be negotiable though.
    – littleadv
    Sep 4 at 4:55

1 Answer 1


Assuming you're asking about the US, since you mentioned IRS. Rules may be different elsewhere. That said:

The answer used to be yes. A friend of mine once cashed a check written on a portable blackboard. However the bank manager did tell him that if he wasted their time again with this nonsense they were likely to tell him to close his account.

However, since then the banking industry had gotten rules put in place which effectively forbid this, since they require that the check be able to go through automated scanning systems. I believe they also still require magnetic ink for the routing and check number, which is something most folks would be unable to provide even given the ability to print a visually compliant check.

(In exchange for getting that rule approved, the banks promised to clear checks more rapidly. You often used to have to wait 7-10 business days for the funds to hit your account after the bank received the check; I'm not sure what the official rule is but the norm is now closer to three days.)

Sorry, but "the shirt off my back" is no longer a valid protest payment in the US.

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    The last paragraph appears to be inaccurate. Legal tender in the US is covered in 31 USC, which states "United States coins and currency … are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues." There does not appear to be an exception for pennies. (q.v.: law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/31/5103 )
    – Nobody
    Sep 5 at 13:15
  • Any US coin is legal tender. Nuisance currency is forbidden in other countries (e.g.: in Europe in many places you can't pay cash above certain amounts at all), but not in the US.
    – littleadv
    Sep 5 at 22:57
  • I also couldn't find a requirement for negotiable instruments to be machine readable anywhere in the banking regulations I could find, can you provide any reference?
    – littleadv
    Sep 5 at 23:02
  • I was under the impression that as of a few years ago pennies could be refused. Since that's a side mode, I'll edit it out.
    – keshlam
    Sep 6 at 7:43
  • @keshlam I think it comes down to the definition of "debts, public charges, taxes, and dues". Most retail purchases, for example, do not fall under those definitions, as I understand it.
    – chepner
    Sep 6 at 13:50

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