I'm selling a boat through a broker (a friend of a friend) taking a consignment. The buyers offered to pay in cash, but want the bill of sale to say less than the actual price for tax reasons. Should I worry about counterfeiting if it is such a large amount? Or should I worry more?

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    I'd be more worried about money laundering than counterfeit. Jun 24, 2011 at 3:13
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    I'd be even more worried about the government getting suspicious if the boat sells for too cheap. There will be a paper trail of the make/model of the boat, and they will have an idea of how much it SHOULD be worth. If the reported sale price (and corresponding tax payment) is too far out of line, be prepared for problems. I know of a car dealer that got busted for this. Jun 24, 2011 at 12:46
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    So what upside do you have to lie about the sale price? They are saving some sales tax, but you are accepting legal risk for no tangible benefit other than helping a stranger break the law.
    – JohnFx
    Jun 24, 2011 at 16:18
  • @msemack Boats are different than cars in that respect in many cases, because the market isn't as liquid as with cars. In some states, the DMV will assess you sales tax equal to the prevailing value for late model cars! Jun 24, 2011 at 18:48

8 Answers 8


When you operate outside of the law, you bear the risks of that decision.

When you operate within the law, you have a number of avenues, such as the courts and police to mediate disputes or other problems.

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    Also worth mentioning that what you are suggesting is fraud, and you could be prosecuted for being party to it. With this website being part of the evidence against you. Jun 24, 2011 at 13:36
  • +1. This is what I term as "the socially correct answer". I did try to answer the OP's question directly though. Hope it's the "factually correct answer" :-D Mar 26, 2012 at 16:37

If you get counterfeit money, then you're dealing with the criminal who is going to be punished by the law for doing that. The portion of the total sum that was paid with the counterfeit currency is considered unpaid and you can claim the money from the criminal and sue him, while he's in jail. He'll work hard on those license plates to pay you off. However, making false statements and assisting in a tax evasion scheme compromises your ability to go to the law enforcement in case of any wrongdoing, and then you should worry about the counterfeit money, because the law won't be on your side to help you.

And you don't even get anything out of it... Why on earth are you willing to take this risk?

Just so you know, it may also be money laundering, which may get you in trouble even more with the law.

  • +1 but that first sentence is a little muddy, and I can't think how to edit it and keep your meaning. Could you clear it up?
    – MrChrister
    Jun 24, 2011 at 18:46
  • @McChrister - does it look better now?
    – littleadv
    Jun 24, 2011 at 18:55
  • Changed "counterfeits" to "compromises" which to my (non-native-speaker-of-English) mind makes a lot more sense. Change it back if you disagree. Jan 10, 2017 at 15:53

I'd not do business under these terms. A bill of sale needs a signature, right? Your signature is your word, and your word is your bond. I wouldn't participate in such a fraud, nor would I accept this sum of cash, who knows its origins?


I'd worry more about falsifying documents of sale. No good reason at all to do that.

Detecting counterfeit bills is easy if they're all new bills. Hold them up to the light and look for the watermark and the numbered tape in the bill. Refuse any bad ones.

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    There are some very good counterfeit bills these days. You'd also be advised to get a UV light, and check what color the security strip is under UV, each bill is a different color. There are also special pens that you can use to help detect if the bill is not genuine. Jun 29, 2011 at 0:50

I'd be a bit concerned about someone who wanted to transact that large of a transaction in cash. Also consider what you are going to do with the funds, if you deposit it, you will need to tell the bank where it comes from.

Why does the bank want to know, because most legal businesses don't transact business with large sums of currency.. What does that tell you about the likelihood the person you are about to do business with is a criminal or involved in criminal affairs?

The lower bill of sale price might be more than just to dodge taxes, it could be part of money laundering.. If they can turn right around and 'sell' the boat for $10K, or trade it in on a bigger boat for the same amount, and have a bill than says $4K, then they have just come up with a legal explanation for how they made 6 grand. and you could potentially be considered an accomplice if someone is checking up on their finances.

Really, is it worth the risk.


Paying tax is a Good Thing.

However, warren has made good point and I would like you to consider this other thing:

Go into your payees bank with the payee, get the money withdrawn from the teller and take it with you.

Unless I am missing something, or the teller handed your payee fake notes, you are "safe"

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    The keyword in the question here is "over 10k". That amount is going to require the buyer to fill out a CTR to report the withdrawal to the US Treasury. That probably isn't desirable to someone trying to evade sales taxes. Bringing someone to the bank with you to withdraw large amounts of money may look suspicious to bank personnel as well -- and they are obligated to report suspicious activity. Mar 26, 2012 at 17:00

The only issue I can see is that the stranger is looking to undervalue their purchase to save money on taxes/registration (if applicable in your state).

Buying items with cash such as cars, boats, etc in the used market isn't all that uncommon* - I've done it several times (though not at the 10k mark, more along about half of that).

As to the counterfeit issue, there are a couple avenues you can pursue to verify the money is real:

  • marker pens (used by stores a lot of time even on 20s)
  • UV scanning
  • not signing the title over until the money has been deposited at your bank
    • alternatively, putting the title in escrow for the time it takes to make the deposit / have the bank verify the funds
    • this could be as simple as doing the purchase in the bank parking lot, walk inside, make deposit, sign title to buyer

*it's the preferred means of payment advocated by some prominent personal financial folks, including Dave Ramsey

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    Great suggestions. Another one: Many community police departments have a policy of allowing and encouraging people to meet strangers for cash sales in their parking lot. If the other person balks at that, then be suspicious.
    – MikeP
    Oct 19, 2016 at 3:09

I would not do a bill of sale for less, but a legal and safe way to reduce the taxes is to write separate bills for the boat, motor and trailer. The taxes are paid at different rates and will represent to full sale price.

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