Why You Can’t Just Blame the IRS

As satisfying as it is to blame the IRS, sometimes more blame belongs elsewhere.

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At Forbes.com, Rick Unger (who “writes from the Left” according to his profile) has posted an excellent follow-up to the New York Times piece on the IRS klepto-regime: “A New IRS Horror Story that Makes Past Scandals Pale in Comparison.” His words are forceful. For example:

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.

“How is that not a criminal enterprise?” It is a criminal enterprise.

But you can’t blame the IRS. It is true that sometimes bureaucracies usurp authority by their own initiative, but that is now how the IRS gained the power to seize the life savings of Americans. Unger explains it very well:

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?

I’m sorry, no; it does not make sense.

Congress had made laws that can easily be worked around. So they expanded the laws so that they could catch those who were “getting around” their other laws. As a result they made it possible to attack people who were not guilty of any wrongdoing. They entrusted the IRS with complete power over the innocent and the guilty.

The only thing protecting the innocent from being robbed, by Congress’ decree, was the self-restraint of the IRS.

Does that sound like the American heritage? To give a bureaucracy unlimited power and then expect it to do the right thing?

Congress is to blame for the IRS abuse—at least partially. They armed the IRS. They supplied the weapon.