Your Government Hates Cash

The US Government hates when you use cash, because its use makes it harder for them to spy on your private affairs and to tax or confiscate your private commerce.  An implication of that I had not considered before is on gift cards.  I was making a large order of Amazon gift cards for a Christmas bonus for employees when I got this email from Amazon:


We're contacting you regarding your recent order xxxxxxxxx, which included one or more gift cards. To comply with the U.S. federal regulations, purchases of gift cards from and its affiliated websites are limited to up to $10,000 for any customer in a single day. Because this order contained gift card purchases in excess of this limit, it has been cancelled and you won't be charged for any items in this order.


  1. Greg Merrill:

    ahh yes, the over 10k limit. If you go over that limit all sorts of forms are required. Their solution appears to NOT allow such transactions.

    I worked for a non financial firm which rarely hit this tripwire. It was a pain in the ass.

    Once had a Treasury official come out and talk to us. Someone else asked if they catch people on the form 8300 (over 10k transactions)

    'Nope' was the answer in so many words

    yet another regulation that does no good

  2. PV123:

    Serious question, are you including these in their W2s?

  3. Mark Lilly:

    Is Money Laundering not a concern worth some trade offs?

  4. tmitsss:

    Yeah you should have structured your transaction to avoid that limit. Bring back the $500 biil

  5. joshv:

    One thing I've noticed is that as the currency has inflated, the $100 bill remains the largest bill, even though in 1914, when the first $100 Federal Reserve Note was issues, it was worth about $2,400. It's almost to the point now that the $100 is the new $20, and I feel like I spend $20s like they're going out of style. I am betting that the US government has absolutely no interest in creating larger denominations, in the next 50 years they can inflate the paper currency into irrelevance.

  6. morganovich:

    i suspect that cash will have given way to peer to peer cryptocurrency systems by then.

    people want the ability to make anonymous peer to peer payments. as cash becomes less useful for such purposes, other options look more attractive and the shift to them will hasten.

  7. donald:

    But Crane Paper doesn't want to have larger bills when they can print more smaller bills that get used up faster. they also don't want us to stop using paper money. they make money on each piece of paper they make for the mint. They and their lobby will try to keep us using lots and lots of small ones, fives, twenties, etc. that they produce (with some ink manufacturers getting in on the mix as well) for about a dime a note. Well it's in their interest to have us use more money. Not less. And it's why we don't have a 1 or 5 dollar push for a coin.

    Some people say they don't like it. Well how do they like it that a one dollar bill costs 4.9 cents to make and it only lasts in circulation for about 5 years. From the fed "The new-currency budget for 2015 is $717.9 million". So we spend almost 3/4 of a billion dollars to have our paper money, the most of which is low value currency? talk about deflating the value of your money. larger bank notes and coin money would solve a lot of that or at least reduce the cost.

  8. Andrew_M_Garland:


    Maybe you will go back to Amazon with 3 orders of $400 each. If so, be careful. The government has made up the crime of "structuring", using smaller transactions to avoid the cash reporting requirements of Form 8300. That isn't your intent? Merely prove that to a federal official.

    Consider filing the forms yourself. It seems that avoiding the filing is itself a crime, even if the money is clearly not being laundered. The government loves to prosecute for paperwork crimes, as you probably know already.
    === ===
    Cody deposits $9,500 in small bills. That is okay. But depositing $9,500 with the “purpose of evading the currency transaction reporting requirement" is a crime called structuring. The Internal Revenue Service reminded businesses that they must file Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business, when they engage in cash transactions in excess of $10,000.
    === ===

  9. STW:

    Bills larger than $100, both the $500 and $1000 bill, were readily available at one time. There was even a $10,000 bill used for federal reserve transactions. They died for the same reason that cash transactions greater than $10,000 have to be reported - the war on drugs. The feds want it to be as difficult as possible to move large amounts of cash.

    The stated reason is to prevent crime. I suspect the crime they are most concerned with is not drug abuse and sales but tax evasion.

  10. TJSawyer:

    I once tried to withdraw $8,000 in cash on a Friday afternoon for traveling money from a large branch of a major bank. You would have thought I had walked up to the teller with a gun. After much conferring, they would give me $3,000 that day but I would have to come back the next week for the balance as they were short on cash. The following Monday, their "stagecoach" had rolled in with the necessary Benjamins. "Pease call in advance for this type of transaction."

  11. mx:

    Perhaps just call Amazon, as they do have ways of taking your money, just not more than $10,000 without talking to someone first. If you're buying that much, you can try to negotiate at least a small discount off face value too.

  12. Jo Van Biesebroeck:

    Sounds indeed like a reasonable restriction from the government. Paying employee wages in kind instead of cash is a popular way to avoid income tax in some high tax countries (think Belgium): cell phone, calling plan, internet subscription, car, bike, housing allowance, wine, dinners, food stamps, and indeed, gift cards of all sorts.

  13. randian:

    US tax law treats in-kind payments as their equivalent in cash for tax purposes.

  14. HenryBowman419:

    Buy the Amazon gift cards at your local supermarket, and pay cash.

  15. davesmith001:

    Am I missing something? If Coyote does not report the cards as an expense and deduct from his taxes, how is anyone evading taxes if he does not report on W2?

  16. DaveK:

    Well, I guess you can be thankful that Amazon wasn't more cooperative with the government... they might have stepped in and seized all those gift-cards in an asset forfeiture action.

  17. DaveK:

    Worse... our IRS typically treats in-kind payments at the highest possible cash value they can dream up. A television/computer/vacation/whatever will be taxed as though it was worth the MSRP or higher, not what you would pay for it on, say, Amazon.

  18. MNHawk:

    Don't even get me started on the people who think they will be cheated if we eliminate the cent. Considering that in 1857, people thought the half cent (worth 13c in today's dollars) wasn't worth bothering with. Which means that in 1858, the smallest denomination of money in circulation was essentially, the quarter. The largest coin was worth over $500 in today's money.

  19. mx:

    Bonuses are wages, even if those wages are given in the form of gift cards. Wages have to be reported on a W2, taxes withheld, etc... It's not the crime of the century and unreported bonuses of this sort happen fairly frequently, but since you asked...

  20. tfowler:

    "Structuring" laws are some of the most ridiculous laws on the books. Set the limit to whatever your weighing of liberty and privacy and convenience and cost vs any benefit from more government knowledge would entail, anywhere from no reporting to report transactions of any size no matter how small. Then apply that standard. This "we think you intended to circumvent the law, so your a felon even if your actions didn't violate any law" idea is crazy.

  21. Mark Lilly:

    Why not? Money obtained from harmful non-consenting activities is used to facilitate additional organized crime. Impinging and monitoring on the cash management of such operations inhibits, disincentives and detects the activity.

  22. Rick C:

    He's going to run into the same problem if he tries to buy $10K of Amazon gift cards at the local Krogers. Or run the risk of being accused of structuring, as mentioned above.

  23. HenryBowman419:

    Actually, not, at least if he (a) does not use his Kroger card and (b) pays cash for the gift card. He simply cannot purchase all the cards he wants at the same time.

  24. davesmith001:

    I know that, but what I wonder is why the government would care. If our good blogger is in a higher tax bracket than his employees, then the government comes out ahead if the stuff is not reported. Unless there was a way to claim the cards as an expense without reporting them on W2, that is.

  25. ColoComment:

    Ummm, ...may want to ask Fmr. Speaker Hastert about structuring.

  26. Matthew Slyfield:

    " Money obtained from harmful non-consenting activities"

    And government attempts to stop those activities do an order of magnitude more harm than the activities themselves.

  27. Mike:

    I used to have an "emergency fund" savings account. When we hit hard times I was pulling money and putting it back a few times a month. Then, I got a letter from the bank explaining that due to Federal law, they must convert my savings account into a checking account because I made too many transactions in a month.

    I'd only made 4 - 6 transactions! For each transaction I took money out, I put money back a few days later! Didn't realize it was illegal to manage my own finances!

  28. frankania:

    So? Just give them cash and let them worry about it (or not).

  29. OBQuiet:

    My memory may have faded with the years but when I was in retail 25 years ago, I think we had forms we needed to fill out for purchases in excess of $10k,

  30. Incunabulum:

    And, technically, not allowing those transactions should be illegal - as they're abetting 'structuring

  31. Incunabulum:

    And government isn't going after moneylaundering for harmful, nonconsenual activities. They're going after moneylaundering of payments for *consenual* ones.

    And, finally, with *any* set of laws - you have to weigh the harm caused by enforcement (and don't pretend that law enforcement is *ever* harmless) with the benefits gained. Money-laundering fails on this level.

  32. Igor:

    Have you tried a Credit Union?