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Rick Ungar: New IRS Horror Story Far Worse Than Previous

Image: Rick Ungar: New IRS Horror Story Far Worse Than Previous
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By    |   Thursday, 30 Oct 2014 10:46 AM

There are times when it becomes absolutely impossible to support the remarkably bad judgment often displayed by federal agencies under the control of the current administration—even for those of us who are typically viewed as backers of many of this administration’s policies.

The latest installment of frightfully unacceptable government behavior involves a law created in 2000—the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000—granting the IRS the power to seize the bank accounts of those suspected to be terrorists, drug dealers or engaged in other criminal activity, even when no charges have been filed and no convictions achieved.

The idea behind the law was to require banks to alert federal authorities to patterns of bank deposits that remain slightly below the $10,000 amount that has long triggered a bank’s responsibility to report deposits to the feds.

Knowing that bad guys are sufficiently savvy to avoid detection of large deposits by making frequent bank drops below the amount triggering reporting, the law empowers the IRS to look for patterns of frequent deposits—often made over the course of a day—that appear designed to avoid detection.

In the context of trying to foil the bad guys, this makes sense, yes?

But what doesn’t make sense—and amounts to nothing short of grand larceny on the part of the Internal Revenue Service—is when completely innocent people are swept up in the act of the IRS emptying their bank accounts, with nothing whatsoever to indicate that they have committed any crime or engaged in anything resembling illegal behavior, and the IRS refuses to give back all the money.

The practice has resulted in emptying the bank account of an innocent restaurant owner and an army sergeant in Virginia who was saving money for his daughter’s college education.

Then there was the retail business whose insurance only covered $10,000 in the event of a lost or stolen sum of money. As a result, the owner, who was cautious about keeping too much cash on site, was careful to send employees to make bank deposits throughout the day in amounts less than $10,000 so he could rely on his insurance policy.

In each of these cases, and many others, the IRS, without notice or so much as a criminal complaint or indictment, swooped in and emptied the bank accounts of these completely legitimate people and businesses.

The New York Times reports that there were 114 of these seizures in 2005. However, in 2012, the last statistics available, the number had grown to 639 seizures.

It get’s worse. Of the 639 seizures in 2012, only twenty percent of these seizures turned out to involve cases where criminal charges were ever pursued.

Think about that— a full eighty percent of the bank accounts emptied by the IRS in 2012 involved completely innocent people and businesses.

How is that not a criminal enterprise?

Of course, when contacted by those who had experienced this theft at the hands of the IRS, the tax collection agency would have quickly apologized for the error and returned all the money, right?

Not a chance.

In fact, the IRS is doing everything in its power to drag its feet, forcing victims to head to court in the effort to retrieve their stolen funds.

Take the case of a Long Island based candy and cigarette distribution company that had just under $500,000 taken from their bank accounts and had, on their accountant’s advice, made daily deposits of less than $10,000.

Despite the fact that there have been absolutely no criminal charges—or, for that matter, any indication that the company was involved in anything other than selling candy and cigarettes to retailers, the IRS has refused to give back the money. No criminal charges filed…no trial or conviction for some nefarious activity.nothing.

Instead of immediately returning the money to the innocent business, what do you imagine the IRS did?

They offered up a partial settlement.

In other words, having learned that they had improperly raided this business’ bank account and taken a whole bunch of money—leaving the business to borrow $300,000 to stay in business—they now want to keep a bunch of that money.

How does that not have the odor of extortion?

The IRS ‘accidentally’ takes your money and when you ask for it back, they try to keep a portion of it.

And this isn’t just happening to this one business. Others who have had their bank account drained when their behavior was perfectly legal has experienced the IRS strategy of either making these folks spend a bunch of money going to court to retrieve their money or enter into a settlement where the IRS gets to keep thousands as a reward for their horrific behavior.

How do we know that there isn’t much of another side to this story that the IRS can tell us?
Because Richard Weber, the chief of the Criminal Investigation unit at the IRS, released the following statement in the past twenty-four hours—

“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.”

Take a close look at what Mr. Weber said in his statement as he literally announces that the IRS has knowingly pursued the seizure and forfeiture of funds associated with legal source structuring cases.

Whatever you make think of the IRS scandal of recent years, it pales in comparison to what we are seeing take place here. The government improperly empties your bank account and when you dare to try to get your money back they negotiate to keep a bunch of that money, despite your having done nothing wrong.

If ever there was a story that deserves media traction, this is it.

What’s more, if the President fails to publicly condemn this, he will have given those of us who believe in government as a tool to greatly benefit the people every reason to feel betrayed and left to be defined as fools.

I know I certainly cannot support any government that would behave in this way.

To see the full commentary,
click here.

Richard "Rick" Ungar is a senior political contributor to Forbes.com, where he writes on American health care policy and politics, and the host of Steele & Ungar on SiriusXM POTUS Channel.

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There are times when it becomes absolutely impossible to support the remarkably bad judgment often displayed by federal agencies under the control of the current administration-even for those of us who are typically viewed as backers of many of this administration's...
ungar, forbes, irs
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2014-46-30
Thursday, 30 Oct 2014 10:46 AM
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