If you are not scared of your government yet, then you missed a shocking story in Sunday’s New York Times. The story reported that the law now allows the IRS to seize bank accounts of citizens who have not been convicted of a crime.
Carole Hinders has operated a modest, cash only Mexican restaurant in Iowa for nearly forty years. She routinely deposited her earnings at a branch bank a block away. But last year the IRS seized the $33,000 in her account.
The Times reports:
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.
According to analysis by a public interest law firm, the IRS made 639 such seizures in 2012, as compared with 114 in 2005. Reportedly only one in five was ever prosecuted. The victims include dairy farmers in Maryland and an Army sergeant who was saving money to educate his kids.
As for Ms. Hinders, 67, she has been forced to take out a second mortgage, borrow money, and max out credit cards. In response to an inquiry from the New York Times, an IRS official said the agency would “curtail” the practice. Not sure I believe him.
It is of course outrageous that our government now threatens our property rights rather than protecting them. This was a frightening story in a week of frightening stories. Given the arrogance the IRS has displayed in the targeting scandal, however, I guess I should not be so surprised.
Government is truly out of control.