I tried googling this but most answers that came up were regarding "cash" as bank deposits that a check is normally issued against. Not "cash-cash" or physical cash, as a bunch of bank notes.

Say one were to buy a $200K home or a $40K car in the U.S. but wished to pay in physical cash. Is it even legal past a certain amount? What kind of scrutiny can (s)he expect from regulatory agencies, IRS etc. if such a transaction surfaces up?

  • Depends on the transaction. Buying a home and buying a car are two VERY different things. For example, home sales generally require attorneys to register a deed etc and they want funds registered or wired. – geewhiz Mar 11 '15 at 18:15
  • i'm just curious why this question just got downvoted – amphibient Mar 11 '15 at 18:21


It looks like you can, but it's a bad idea because you lack protection of a receipt, there's no record of you actually giving the money over, and the money would need to be counted - bill by bill - which increases time and likelihood of error.

In general, paying large amounts in cash won't bring up any scrutiny because there's no record. How can the IRS scrutinize something that it can't know about? Of course, if you withdraw 200k from your bank account, or deposit 200k into it then the government would know and it would certainly be flagged as suspicious.

  • I thought that perhaps some federal (or state) regulation forbade receiving cash amounts past a certain figure for transactions on the vendor part – amphibient Mar 11 '15 at 19:08
  • Buying a home is a transaction between two individuals (though typically facilitated by lawyers, real estate agents, and banks). There are laws that regulate large cash transactions but only with respect to financial institutions, not individuals. However, assuming you had 200k lying around in cash that you hadn't kept in the bank, the previous homeowner would likely deposit it and that would flag the deposit, which would be investigated, and the government would probably assume there was cause to think you may be involved in illegal activity. – David Rice Mar 11 '15 at 19:12
  • That's not true that there's no record. At least if not breaking any laws - a cash transaction report must be filed. – littleadv Mar 12 '15 at 2:45
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    I wouldn't be one bit surprised if the title company wouldn't accept a pile of cash at closing. They probably don't have a system in place to deal with $200k. – Loren Pechtel Mar 12 '15 at 3:33
  • @littleadv - that's for financial institutions, not for individual people. – David Rice Mar 12 '15 at 14:05

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