Image source: Institute for Justice
It is possible to fight the Internal Revenue Service and its forfeiture rules — and win. The agency has agreed to return $153,907.99 it seized from North Carolina convenience store owner Khalid Quran in June 2014.
The IRS took the money — his entire savings — simply because he was making regular withdrawals of less than $10,000, attorneys for the Institute for Justice said. The laws against multiple deposits and withdrawals were “designed to target criminals evading bank-reporting requirements” but have been used by the IRS to target innocent people, the Institute for Justice said.
He goes by the name “Ken.”
“I’m so happy,” he said. “The IRS never should have taken my money in the first place, but I’m so grateful that it has now done the right thing. I worked hard for that money. This is justice.”
He told CNBC that agents simply walked into his convenience store in Greenville, North Carolina, in 2014, and pressured him to sign a document he did not understand. His business primarily dealt only in cash.
“He said, ‘You need to sign a paper,’ and I told him my English is not right,” he told CNBC. “Then he read it to me like you would read the newspaper and said you need to sign it.”
The Institute filed a petition for Ken in July 2015, arguing that the IRS should give him his money back under a new policy – adopted in October 2014 – that supposedly protects innocent people. But the new policy came after Ken’s money was seized. On Feb. 18, the IRS sent the Institute of Justice a fax stating that the money would be returned.
Ken was one of a number of small business owners who were victims of a federal program designed to stop “structuring” and prevent criminals from laundering money. Federal law requires banks to report cash deposits over $10,000 to authorities, but criminals sometimes get around the requirement by depositing and withdrawing multiple smaller amounts.
Unfortunately, many small business owners including convenience store operators had cash seized under the program. Civil forfeiture enables the IRS and other agencies simply to seize cash without criminal charges being filed. (Listen to Off The Grid Radio’s in-depth report on civil forfeiture here.)
“The IRS took Ken’s money without ever accusing him of doing anything wrong,” IJ attorney Robert Johnson said. “The IRS realized it was wrong when it changed its policies and it has done the right thing in giving it back. That money should have never been taken in the first place, and I hope this is just the beginning.”
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