If you give the IRS the legal power to seize money without cause, they’re going to take that legal power and use it to abuse everyday folks.
It’s kind of like one of Newton’s Laws of Motion. It just works that way.
It seems that back when Congress was in one of its rare bill-passing moods, this time in a holy zeal to wage “war on drugs,” it turned diarrheic and passed any stupid law that came into its collective head. Among these was a law that gives the IRS the power to seize monies of private citizens without preamble or proof of wrongdoing, without, in fact, suspicion of wrong-doing.
Here’s how it works. Suppose, say, you sold 3 prime acres of the old family homestead. Suppose you got the not-so-princely sum of fifty thousand dollars for the land.
Rather than deposit all of the money in one savings account, suppose you opened a second savings account and deposited 7 thousand you were setting aside to pay taxes on the sale. Then, you put another 5 thousand in an account set up to pay for the funeral of an elderly relative when the time comes. The rest of the money you put in your main savings account.
By doing this innocent, and even intelligent, bit of allocating of your own money, you would have committed a federal crime called “structuring.” Because you had “structured” your money to suit your needs, the IRS could seize it without warning.
The IRS does not have to prove that you had criminal intent for the money. It does not even have to believe that you had criminal intent for it. Your money could be seized and you could be prosecuted without having done anything wrong at all, simply for allocating your money to suit yourself like, say, a free American.
The law that allows this was passed with the supposed purpose of catching bad guys, specifically bad guys who are funding terrorists and laundering drug money and such. As will all bad laws, I would imagine that anyone who questioned its utterly stupid verbiage was accused of being “soft” on crime. This kind of emotional and political blackmail, writ as it is across the internet and in cable news talk-a-thons, can scare lawmakers into voting for bad laws.
When the force pushing for the law is none other than the IRS with their vast terror-tactic powers and the president of the United States, who is off on a legacy-building crusade, voting against even a law as obviously horrid as this one gets dicey. Political demagoguery and political cowardice are how grandma loses her life-savings to government forfeiture and ends up defending herself in federal court against charges that she has violated this nebulous and entirely unjust law.
The IRS has been seizing private monies with this law for a long time. According to Yahoo News, they seized $242 million in 2500 cases between 2005 and 2012. Fully one third of these seizures “were nothing more than cash transactions under $10,000.” Half of these were returned after owners challenged the IRS action.
That’s sounds sorta good. It means that half of these people were able to defend themselves. But think for a moment what defending yourself against the IRS entails.
Think of the anguish, the fear, the expense, the protracted and ugly battles and accusatory conversations, the search for an attorney who specializes in this stuff, the legal fees. Think about that and tell me that even the people who got their money back didn’t suffer a kind of legal purgatory because of this bad, bad law.
Consider also that not every innocent person whose money was flat-out stolen from them under this law was able to get it back. It takes determination and cash to fight these things. It takes willpower and nerves of steel. It takes a lot more fight than, say, an elderly person who had been depositing their spouse’s life insurance in separate accounts, divided up for the kids, would be able to muster.
The IRS has run into a bit of criticism because of the fact that it’s using the legal power that Congress gave it in the way the law clearly says that it can. As a result, the IRS is saying that it will stop being such a bad boy agency in this regard. They promise that they are going to stop seizing money that comes from legal sources. And we’re supposed to believe them and trust them and call it square.
What’s missing in this is the responsibility of our elected lawmakers in Congress to either repeal or amend this law. I know, it sounds like science fiction to expect our lawmakers to stop positioning themselves to either (1) take back the power if they are the Ds or (2) add the White House to the power they’ve got if they are the Rs, and do their jobs.
I know that’s not going to happen. Running for the next election is all they do in Congress. Governing this great country and representing the interests of We the People is not what they are about.
They aren’t going to change that just because the government is abusing the people they are supposed to represent due to a bad law that they passed themselves. That would be responsible. It’s the kind of thing that an actual public servant might do.
This is the United States Congress we’re talking about. They don’t do nothin’ but run for the next election and serve the special interests who pay for their campaigns.
This bad law won’t change so long as We the People continue to be bamboozled into thinking that either of the two political parties is the answer to our woes. So long as they can engage us in their ridiculous pie-throwing contests and keep us mesmerized with blind party loyalty, they’re going to continue with their bad governance and dereliction of duty.
So what we have is an agency saying that it’s going to change how it enforces a bad, bad law in order to stop a bit of bad, bad publicity. Meanwhile the people we’ve elected to write the laws are ignoring the problem and behaving as if lawmaking, actual lawmaking and law-fixing, has nothing whatsoever to do with them.
What’s wrong with this picture?
From Yahoo News:
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa widow is charged with a crime and had nearly $19,000 seized from her bank after depositing her late husband’s legally earned money in a way that evaded federal reporting requirements.
Janet Malone, 68, of Dubuque, is facing civil and criminal proceedings under a law intended to help investigators track large sums of cash tied to criminal activity such as drug trafficking and terrorism. But some members of Congress and libertarian groups have complained that the IRS and federal prosecutors are unfairly using it against ordinary people who deposit lawfully obtained money in increments below $10,000.
At issue is a law requiring banks to report deposits of more than $10,000 cash to the federal government. Anyone who breaks deposits into increments below that level to avoid the requirement is committing a crime known as “structuring” — whether their money is legal or not.
The IRS has increasingly used civil forfeiture proceedings to seize money from individuals and small businesses suspected of structuring violations, according to a review by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian group. The agency seized $242 million in 2,500 cases from 2005 to 2012 — a third of which arose from nothing more than cash transactions under $10,000. Nearly half was returned after owners challenged the action, often a year later.