A year and a half after seizing $33,000 from a small-business owner who supposedly deposited the cash incorrectly, the Internal Revenue Service has reluctantly agreed to give the Iowa woman her money back.

The IRS seized Carole Hinders’ cash through civil forfeiture, which lets the government take money it believes was illicitly obtained even if its owner hasn’t been convicted of a crime or even charged with one.

Hinders, owner of an Iowa restaurant called Mrs. Lady’s Mexican Food, caught the IRS’ attention last year because she made frequent large deposits of less than $10,000 from her cash-only restaurant. Banks that get deposits of more than $10,000 have to report them to the federal government, and anybody who purposely tries to avoid those reporting requirements is guilty of a crime called structuring.

However, Hinders says she’d never heard of structuring before the cash seizure, and that she’s just trying to run an honest cash business. With the help of a public-interest law firm called the Institute for Justice, Hinders has been fighting for over a year to get the money back.

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