Jazz hit this the other day, but it’s so outrageous, it’s worth discussing again, and connecting to the larger issue of problematic asset forfeiture laws and abuses all over the nation.
Here’s the deal. The IRS has a law on the books that allows them to investigate small businesses that make bank deposits under $10,000. Of course, many small businesses make such deposits, as they are small businesses. And, once an IRS investigation is triggered—allegedly because this deposit amount makes one a suspected drug dealer or something—the IRS can then take the money in the bank account of the small business without ever charging the owner with a crime. Being small businesses, such a seizure can be devastating to their finances and future, the NYT reports:
ARNOLDS PARK, Iowa — 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.
Once again the Institute for Justice is on the case, defending Hinders in its quest to reform forfeiture practices and abuses across the nation. The NYT notes Hinders has had to take out a second mortgage and scrape and borrow to make do. The law has affected “dairy farmers in Maryland, an Army sergeant in Virginia saving for his children’s college education,” and instances are more than five times what they were 10 years ago.
By all means, let’s give as much power to these people as possible, never hold them accountable for their crimes against the American people, and offer them an inexorably increasing budget for audits of non-criminal citizens, as the New York Times editorial board suggested on July 4th weekend of this year:
There is a scandal going on at the Internal Revenue Service, but it has nothing to do with Lois Lerner or her missing emails. House Republicans have not given up on their noisy crusade to tie Ms. Lerner to what they imagine to be widespread political corruption within the Obama administration, but all they have proved is that the I.R.S. is no better at backing up its computer files than most other government agencies.
No, the real scandal is what Republicans did to cripple the agency when virtually no one was looking. Since the broad Tea Party-driven spending cuts of 2010, the agency’s budget has been cut by 14 percent after inflation is considered, leading to sharply reduced staff, less enforcement of the tax laws and poor taxpayer service…
But in 2013, it audited only 24 percent of returns over $10 million, compared with 30 percent in 2010. Of returns reporting between $1 million and $5 million, it audited 16 percent in 2013, compared with 21 percent in 2010.
Allow Larry Salzman, IJ lawyer for Hinders, to explain just how our neverending resources could be used to more efficiently ream honest, productive Americans. Dream the dream, NYT!
I don’t do this often, but if you are ever in need of a home for your charitable giving, and want it to benefit really amazing clients being abused in really astounding ways by the government, the Institute for Justice is a great place. They’re on the right side of these fights, and they unearth and defend those victims of the state’s abuse who would otherwise just have to give up and close up shop. There are hundreds of businesses thriving in this country to day because of them that might otherwise have simply disappeared, leaving their owners dreams dead and employees out of luck.