Via the New York Times:
For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.
The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.
“How can this happen?” Ms. Hinders said in a recent interview. “Who takes your money before they prove that you’ve done anything wrong with it?”
The federal government does.
Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up.
This strikes anyone as insane. If you move less that $10,000 in cash — maybe because you have less than $10,000 in cash — you are liable to have your money seized and never be charged with any crime. What you are seeing here is the flip side of the egregious civil forfeiture laws than enable police forces to seize your home, your car, your bank account, and your business without ever having to go to charge you with an offense other than they want it.
The Internal Revenue Service seized hundreds of millions of dollars from thousands of bank accounts over the past decade, often without proof of any criminal wrongdoing, according to a report released by the Institute for Justice this week.
The Institute for Justice, a public-interest law firm, said the IRS practiced a “seize first, ask questions later” strategy when it seized $242 million in more than 2,500 cases from 2005 to 2012.
All of those seizures were for “structuring” violations, an obscure rule intended to keep money launderers, terrorists, and other criminals from making small deposits to evade federal bank reporting laws. But the Institute for Justice and other civil liberties advocates say the IRS has used the rule to target the bank accounts of law-abiding citizens with no other evidence of a crime.
While there is some movement to limit civil asset forfeiture (and Eric Holder’s change in federal policy is a baby step in the right direction), the IRS program has largely flown under the radar. Given that the IRS is the agency that has been converted into Democrat storm troopers by the lawless Obama administration, any conservative who handles cash transaction would seem to be a legitimate target for this tactic.
The fact that Eric Holder’s nominated replacement, Loretta Lynch, thinks forfeitures are a “wonderful tool,” the Congress should take immediate action to end these unethical and un-democratic practices.