Immorally ruining small businesses

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Daniel Maibenco, Columnist

 

The tale of woe for the IRS continues. After facing much controversy for the targeting of conservatives in 2013, the IRS has put itself in a bigger hole to redeem itself.

Now, there is an even bigger story that will cast further doubt and scrutiny on the organization. That story is how they have been seizing the bank accounts of small business owners.

This practice, known as civil asset forfeiture, allows the IRS to seize money and property they suspect is being used to commit a crime, namely drug dealing or terrorism. No criminal charges or criminal activity needed.

Under the Bank Secrecy Act, banks and other financial institutions are required by federal law to report transactions of more than $10,000 to the IRS. Now, it appears the IRS is abusing this law for nefarious purposes.

While it is true that criminals have been ensnared and stopped by the civil asset forfeiture, the practice has gotten out of hand. In 2005, only 114 cases were reported. In 2012, just under 650 cases were reported, but less than 20 percent of the cases actually involved criminal activity.

To me, the main issue is not why the IRS is seizing these bank accounts, but rather who they are targeting. I see that they are targeting few criminals and a gang of innocents. The people who are faced with bankruptcy and the loss of their life’s savings and future dreams are mostly middle-class folk.

These are the people who want to work hard to provide for their families and create jobs. But, if the IRS becomes involved, their vision will be taken away from them.

Even with the seizure of these bank accounts, the story doesn’t end there. If any of these business owners want to have their money returned, they must face a long and costly legal battle with the IRS.

I see that the IRS has a clever strategy to limit lawsuits due to its civil asset forfeiture practice. They tell the business owners that they can accept a fraction of their seized money returned or risk losing their case in court. If the business owners cannot afford the costs, they opt to settle than rather going home with nothing.

That is a clear slap in the face to any innocent business person who must deal with that madness. It’s clear the IRS indirectly threatens bankruptcy to anyone who wishes to go after them.

The IRS doesn’t own up to its mistake, but instead scoffs at the people who call out their treachery.

As the number of civil asset forfeiture cases have gone up in recent years, it has sparked a public outcry. The increased scrutiny, especially in the face of the 2013 scandal, has prompted congressional hearings.

Within the past week, the IRS tried to save face by apologizing for its practices and promised to rework its future practices to further alleviate tensions.

While the apology was nice and all, the IRS refuses to return the money it has wrongfully seized.

To me, actions speak louder than words. If the IRS is truly repentant and sorry for causing all this unnecessary aggravation, they would do the right thing. Instead, they make a sketchy promise and give nothing in return. So, unless they return the money, their current and future words mean nothing to me.

The bottom line – why do we need and trust the IRS? I am no expert, but everyone, no matter their job, needs to be diligent and honest. The past few years have proven how dishonest and hypocritical the IRS is.

The IRS can boss everyone around when it comes to taxes and spending their money, but they cannot even keep their own workers in line. Examples include the following: YouTube has several videos of IRS employees mocking the “regular people,” over 100 new and former employees were hired even though they have had trouble paying their taxes, and the IRS bosses spend millions of dollars of taxpayer money on exorbitant and unnecessary company conferences in Las Vegas.

The most telling? There are questions e-mail correspondence Lois Lerner, a ringleader in the conservative tax group targeting, has conducted in the past few months. Dubious legal exceptions have been cited as to why these emails have not been released to the public.

If any of this doesn’t spark a call for a complete overhaul, then I don’t know what will.