Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The IRS has its own version of civil asset forfeiture

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Shaila Dewan reports in the NY Times:

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.

“They’re going after people who are really not criminals,” said David Smith, a former federal prosecutor who is now a forfeiture expert and lawyer in Virginia. “They’re middle-class citizens who have never had any trouble with the law.”

On Thursday, in response to questions from The New York Times, the I.R.S. announced that it would curtail the practice, focusing instead on cases where the money is believed to have been acquired illegally or seizure is deemed justified by “exceptional circumstances.” . . .

Continue reading. And do read it all: it will make your blood boil.

It was theft, pure and simple. The IRS stole the money from Carole Hinders bank account even though she had followed the law. The fact that her cash deposits were less than $10,000 at a time is certainly not a crime—if it is, I am in big trouble, because all my cash deposits are below $10,000 at a time—and not breaking a law should not be grounds for simply taking the money. Apparently (according to the story), depositing cash amounts of less than $10,000 is a crime if the intention is to evade the reporting requirements for cash deposits of $10,000 or more—-but surely that intention must be proven in a court of law. One would think that the government cannot simply assume that a cash deposit of $9,000 was made to evade the law. It might be suspicious and warrant investigation, but to simply take the money without ever accusing the person of a crime much less getting a conviction? That is very like an authoritarian government feeling that it can do what it wants to citizens without bothering with things like a trial or court proceedings.

Back in the day, if you hadn’t done anything wrong, the government wouldn’t simply take your money, and if you had done something wrong, the government had to prove it.

Under the new, authoritarian government the US seems to be moving toward, the government can simply do what it wants without really having to prove anything.

The IRS says that they will stop, but there really needs to be some accountability—and if they simply stop voluntarily, they can resume the practice after the kerfuffle dies down. We need a law to absolutely preclude this kind of high-handed and unjustified government taking. This is the sort of thing that triggered the American Revolution.

We need a law against civil asset forfeiture, and we need it now. I have written to both my US Senators and to my Representative asking that (a) civil asset forfeiture be made illegal; and (b) that the persons in the IRS responsible for these seizures be identified and immediately sent to prison in a Federal prison. Once they prove they are innocent, they can be released, but that might take years. Still, I don’t see that they would have any room to complain, given their own actions.

Really, civil asset forfeiture acts as incentive program for government to take your money and your possessions whenever it wants and make you have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to get it back.

It’s hard to grasp what sort of country the US has now become that this sort of thing is regularly done.

Read that entire article. It’s worse than you would believe. For example, later in the article:

Banks are not permitted to advise customers that their deposit habits may be illegal or educate them about structuring unless they ask, in which case they are given a federal pamphlet, Ms. Van Steenwyk said. “We’re not allowed to tell them anything,” she said.

Of course the government doesn’t want people to know the law, because then they might obey it and the government couldn’t take their money. Criminals, of course, doubtless know the law. It’s innocent civilians who get caught.

Keeping laws secret is a favored tactic of authoritarian government (since people can then break a law without realizing it, and then the government has them at its mercy). We are seeing more and more secret laws in the US, along with secret courts and secret court decisions. Not a good sign.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2014 at 4:09 am

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