By Dwight L. Schwab, Jr.
The Internal Revenue Service not only has an ongoing congressional investigation concerning improper targeting of conservative causes but now they are seizing money from the bank accounts of individuals and businesses, according to The New York Times this weekend. This is being conducted without proof of a crime or charges being filed.
The IRS has said the practice has been stopped, but who would know. The federal agency had been using a law known as the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000. It allows the feds to seize money from suspected gangsters, drug dealers and terrorists.
Unfortunately, it has put innocent people into bankruptcy or for some even prison time. The practice of following people’s bank account spending has provided the agency many times with ill-conceived reasons to audit or even jail innocent Americans.
In actuality, even when no criminal charges are filed, the IRS often negotiates to return only part of any seized monies. It leaves people impoverished with little option but to either accept the IRS’ offer or continue an expensive legal battle against a government with unlimited authority to prosecute with costs going to other taxpayers.
The practice is growing, not shrinking. The Institute for Justice reported recently that during 2005, there were just 114 seizures. By 2012, it had grown to 639 seizures with only 20 percent of those cases ever being prosecuted.
All this is being conducted under the Bank Secrecy Act. The banks must report transactions larger than $10,000 to federal authorities. That is the law of the land but banks are also required to report a pattern of regular, smaller deposits which appear designed to get around the act.
The results alone do not create a situation for an arrest, but the Times reports that banks have filed over 700,000 “suspicious” reports last year alone.
“After a thorough review of our structuring cases over the last year, IRS-CI will no longer pursue the seizure and forfeiture of funds associated solely with legal source structuring cases unless there are exceptional circumstances justifying the seizure and forfeiture and the case has been approved at the director of field operations (D.F.O.) level,” said Richard Weber, chief of Criminal Investigation at the IRS.
The House may find itself with a busy 2015 calendar for IRS scandals. The Lois Learner scandal is already in its second year of intense hearings and House investigations.
(Dwight L. Schwab Jr. looks at all sides of a story, then speaks his mind. His BS in journalism from University of Oregon, with minors in political science and American history stands him in good stead for his writing. Dwight has 30 years in the publishing industry.)