[Editor’s Note: The following post is by TDV Editor-in-Chief, Jeff Berwick]
All of a sudden the government lays claims to your savings. They can’t prove you owe them a dime, but you’re deprived due process. The legal bills become overwhelming, and so you let your money be stolen. You simply have no choice.
Sound outlandish? It’s not. Not in the “Land of the Free” at least.
For example, the US government began intercepting Mary Grice’s tax refunds without any warning this tax season. Grice was unaware of the situation until she got a letter stating that her refund had gone to satisfy old debt to the government. Very old debt…In fact, debt she didn’t even know about.
That debt stems back to 1960, when Grice was 4, around the time her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise. Until the kids turned 18, her mother Sadie Grice got survivor benefits from Social Security to help feed and clothe them. But, according to Social Security, something went awry.
Social Security now claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family – though it is not sure whom – in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after the daughter. She is not the only one.
Hundreds of thousands of taxpayers will receive letters like the one Grice got. Because of some unknown debt they never even knew about, that might not have anything to do with them, the government is confiscating their money. They won’t have their day in court, in most cases, because they don’t have the money to fight.
Already in 2014, the US Treasury Department has “intercepted” $1.9 billion in tax refunds, $75 million of which has been delinquent for more than ten years. The effort to collect old debts was ratcheted up in the last three years, the result of a sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam. Social Security, the Treasury Department and Congress have all denied seeking the change. Why now?
“We have an obligation to current and future Social Security beneficiaries to attempt to recoup money that people received when it was not due,” says Social Security spokeswoman Dorothy Clark.
Since the effort to collect old debts began in 2011, the Treasury Department has collected $424 million in debts that were over 10 years old. The Social Security Administration has found 400,000 taxpayers who collectively owe $714 million on debts over 10 years old. The agency expects to have begun proceedings against all of those people by the summer.
“It was a shock,” said Grice, 58. “What incenses me is the way they went about this. They gave me no notice, they can’t prove that I received any overpayment, and they use intimidation tactics, threatening to report this to the credit bureaus.”
Grice filed a suit against the Social Security Administration alleging they violated her right to due process by holding her responsible for the $2,996 debt supposedly incurred under her father’s Social Security number. On its website, The Federal Trade Commission states “family members typically are not obligated to pay the debts of a deceased relative from their own assets.”
But Social Security sees it differently. If a child indirectly receives funds from public money paid to the parent, the children’s money is fair game.
“The craziest part of this whole thing is the way the government seizes a child’s money to satisfy a debt that child never even knew about,” says Robert Vogel, Grice’s attorney. “They’ll say that somebody got paid for that child’s benefit, but the child had no control over the money and there’s no way to know if the parent ever used the money for the benefit of that kid…Can the government really bring back to life a case that was long dead? Can it really be right to seize a child’s money to satisfy a parent’s debt?”
Although Grice has a lawyer, most taxpayers whose refunds have been taken say they are unable to contest the confiscations because of the cost.
The Treasury initially held the full amount of Grice’s federal and state refunds, a total of $4,462. Last week, after The Washington Post inquired about Grice’s case, and then the government returned the part of her refund above the $2,996 owed on her father’s account.
But unless the feds can prove that she ever received any of the overpayment, Grice wants all of her money back.
“Look, I love a good fight, especially for principle,” she said. “My mom used to say, ‘This country is carried on the backs of the little people,’ and now I see what she meant. This is really sad.”
Does one need more evidence that the federal government is bankrupt? It’s grasping at every last penny it can get by inserting legislation deep inside bills that the House of Representatives doesn’t even read. One sentence is all that is needed for your savings to be confiscated. But don’t worry, it is all to pay down a trifling US government debt:
Of the hundreds of thousands who have claims by the Treasury or Social(ist) (In)Security against them only 10% win their cases and are absolved of forking over money. There is nothing you can do about bureaucracy once bureaucracy decides to come after you. In the future there will only be more of the same as government agencies seize funds, including the nationalization of IRAs and pensions.
The best way to protect yourself is to get your funds and assets outside of the US preferably not even in your personal name. That is where The TDV Wealth Management Conference comes in. Only here will you learn the ins-and-outs of the new American system, and the options available to you, as an American, at the end of empire. Don’t miss out.
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