This Grandmother Didn’t Submit the Proper Banking Form. Now the IRS Wants $2.1 Million From Her.
The IRS wants to seize more than $2 million from an elderly woman, whose family fled from Nazi Germany, for failing to report her father’s endowment to her. Now, she’s petitioning the Supreme Court to consider whether this is an unconstitutionally excessive fine.
The Institute for Justice, representing Monica Toth, an 82-year-old grandmother living in the Boston area, filed a petition with the Supreme Court on Friday asking them to determine whether federal “civil penalties” imposed by the federal government for violating regulations count as “fines.” While a reasonable person might assume “penalties” and “fines” are the same thing, the federal government’s position is that they are not, and, therefore, the IRS can demand millions in such penalties from people without triggering the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment.
Monica Toth’s family fled Germany in the 1930s to escape rising fascism and antisemitism. Her family landed in Argentina, where she was born in 1940. Toth immigrated to the U.S. when she was 22 and established a family. She became a U.S. citizen in the 1980s.
Her father, who had in the meantime become a successful businessman, gifted Toth several million dollars in a Swiss bank account shortly before dying in 1999. The federal Bank Secrecy Act, passed in 1970, requires citizens to report various banking records and information to the government. It also requires any citizen with more than $10,000 in foreign bank accounts to fill out a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) annually.
Toth had not been filing these FBARs until 2010, which is when she says she discovered the requirement. According to the Institute for Justice, she had previously been filing her taxes by hand using forms from the local library. Once she knew of the requirement, she disclosed the existence of the account to the IRS and told them she hoped her filings would put her back into compliance with the law.
Things didn’t go well for her. According to the Institute for Justice’s filing, the IRS launched an audit in 2011. The agency determined that
Article from Reason.com