On February 11 Congress blasted the IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on the Service’s use of civil-asset forfeiture laws, demanding to know why innocent small business owners are being target when they have committed no crime. 

This issue is two fold: 1) whether IRS collection officers are under pressure to fill quotas on assets seizures, which is prohibited by law to reward these people based on the amount they have collected; and 2) the IRS practice of seizing the bank accounts of people suspected of “structuring,” that is, of making cash deposits worth less than $10,000 to avoid reporting requirements, when in fact small business owners may make several deposits under $10,000 for a variety of reasons and none of them are illegal.

I can say with personal experience this is a real problem.  In fact, I was involved in case where the IRS/DOJ seized the funds of a small business owner from his bank account and prosecuted him for “structuring” when in fact that person paid all the taxes on the deposits associated with those funds.  He operated a cash business and the bank told him not to make deposits over $10,000 because that was “bad”.   He made sure his deposits where under $10,000, but reports all the income from the deposits and paid all the taxes.  In this case, there was zero harm to the government because there was no tax loss.   Regardless, the IRS seized all his funds and prosecuted him for structuring in federal district court.
I am glad to know Congress is looking into these practices by the IRS/DOJ of seizing funds just because the person makes deposits under $10,000.  The person needs to intend to violate the Bank Secrecy Act.   I also believe their should be some harm to government, such as underreporting of taxes or other illegal activity, although this is not a requirement of “structuring.”
You can contact Joe Wilson at the Wilson Tax Law Group if you have questions about structuring.   Our office phone number is 714-463-4430.
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