After taking considerable heat on which we reported before, the IRS has hunkered back to a policy that generally (that's a fuzz word) will allow seizure only where the IRS has proof of illegal income. So, under the new law, generally the innocents (meaning those without illegal income) can intentionally violate the structuring law without being subject forfeiture and presumably without being subject to structuring prosecution. It seems to me that Congress should change the law rather than have the IRS not enforce the law as Congress wrote it or to signal to citizens that they can violate the law with impunity so long as they do use illegal funds. Some changes to the law are now in consideration, hence the House Hearings, but I am not sure the proposals fix the fundamental problem.
Here are a few quotes from the introduction to Mr. Hoffman's article:
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said February 11 that the agency changed its civil asset forfeiture policy last October because an internal review found that it was applied inconsistently, and it decided it won't pursue cases in which serial bank deposits are just under the $10,000 threshold for reporting under the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 unless there are indications that the funds were illegally obtained.
That deposit practice, called structuring, may be linked to organized crime, drug dealers, and terrorism, Koskinen told the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee. In each forfeiture case, the IRS prepares a search warrant for review by the appropriate U.S. attorney's office, he said. The warrant must then be approved by a federal judge before a seizure can take place, he noted.
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The IRS conducted 146 civil asset forfeitures in fiscal 2014, accounting for about 5 percent of the workload of the IRS Criminal Investigation division, Koskinen said. The median value of assets seized was less than $34,000, Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., said, though the commissioner said the average is well over $100,000. In 60 percent of forfeitures, Koskinen added, no taxpayer challenged the IRS seizure, suggesting the depositor was probably involved in some illegal activity.
"We came up with the decision that the right balance between law enforcement and trying to protect taxpayers was, when there was no evidence that the funds were from illegal sources, there would be no seizure," Koskinen said. The new policy has been communicated to IRS agents, and appropriate changes will be made to the Internal Revenue Manual by the end of the first quarter of 2015, he added.
Following Koskinen's remarks, the subcommittee heard from angry small business owners who said their companies were hobbled or threatened with closure after the IRS seized their bank accounts claiming they had repeatedly made bank deposits of less than $10,000 to avoid reporting requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act.