Economy

Could You Be the Next Innocent American to Have Your Bank Account Seized by the Government?

The IRS can take your money, even if you did nothing wrong.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

You may be innocent, but that doesn’t mean a federal agent can’t grab your money and property at will — and keep it without any consequences.

The Internal Revenue Service is supposed to go after criminals who launder money or people who cheat on their taxes, but lately, agents have been going after ordinary Americans who have been accused of nothing, nada, zilch. Bewildered citizens are having their bank accounts seized and forking over thousands of dollars in legal fees to try to combat this gross violation of their rights — let’s just call it outright theft — often to no avail.

You could be next.

IRS agents have been on a spree targeting citizens for the simple act of making deposits of less than $10,000 at a time. They are doing so using a pernicious and controversial area of law called civil asset forfeiture. This law basically lets agents grab your property if they suspect you being tied to crime, even if no criminal charges are filed.

Bonus for law enforcement agencies: They keep a chunk of whatever is forfeited.

The New York Times reports:

“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.”

The IRS says that some people who make deposits under $10,000 are doing so to evade reporting requirements, which is a crime whether the money is from legal or illegal sources. But there are plenty of legitimate reasons to make a deposit of less than $10,000, and law-abiding people do it every day. A grocery store owner in Michigan targeted by the IRS had an insurance policy that covered only up to $10,000 cash, so when he neared the limit, he would make a deposit.

The NYT reports the tribulations of unfortunate dairy farmers, small business owners and even a U.S. Army sergeant trying to save for his children’s college education who have been caught up in this outrageous abuse.

Big bankers who commit heinous financial crimes go free. But the innocent little guys just keep on getting robbed, in this case by the very people who are supposed to protect us. This is what's happening in America today. What's on the agenda for tomorrow?

Lynn Parramore is contributing editor at AlterNet. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of "Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture." She received her Ph.D. in English and cultural theory from NYU, and she serves on the editorial board of Lapham's Quarterly. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore. 

 

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