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As the owner of a small business, I have asked Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis to oppose the misguided ILLICIT CASH Act, currently in the Senate Banking Committee, of which Senator Tillis is a member.
The big banks and their lobbyists support the bill. They are trying to get it passed under the radar of small business owners. If the bill passes, North Carolina’s small businesses will be tasked with a new and substantial regulatory burden. The truth is this legislation would be a costly distraction for legitimate business owners and an alarming invasion of innocent people’s privacy.
Supporters say they’re trying to stop money launderers, tax cheats and other criminals from hiding behind small, family-owned businesses. The proposed solution amounts to trying to swat a fly with a wrecking ball.
Under the bill, small business owners would have to file reports with the federal government disclosing the personal information of everyone with at least a 25% stake in the business. That’s a lot to ask of a small business owner with no in-house lawyers or compliance officers — especially when the penalty for failing to provide completed and updated reports could lead to a $10,000 fine and four years in federal prison for each offense.
Just as troubling is the potential invasion of people’s privacy. The ILLICIT CASH Act would give the government broad access to people’s personal information. This information could be freely accessed by federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies without a subpoena. This access is ripe for abuse, but there is also the potential for people’s personal information to fall into the hands of criminal hackers.
Rep. Patrick McHenry led the opposition to similar legislation in the House, accurately citing small business burdens. I am thankful to Senator Tillis, who articulated small business concerns during a June hearing on the topic. I have urged him to do everything within his control to ensure this bill does not leave the Banking Committee. I hope our senators will vote against any attempt to shift the burden of catching financial criminals onto the backs of small businesses.
The ILLICIT CASH Act would place an unfair burden on law-abiding entrepreneurs and make it even harder for us to own, operate and profitably grow our businesses.
John T. Bass
The writer is owner of Bass Business Solutions.