PSA: If you structure transactions, the government will ruin your life. Don't do it

I've shared a couple news articles on Twitter recently about people being charged by the federal government with structuring transactions.

Structuring is about reporting requirements

It's a federal crime to structure your transactions in any way with the intent to evade reporting requirements. It's not a crime to interact with the banking system in any (legal) way you want with any other intent.

Criminals structure transactions

For reasons I cannot begin to fathom, the first case I cited is being cast by the news media as a sob story about an undereducated ("10th-grade education") business owner being the victim of federal overreach.

But as the second story makes clear, criminals structure transactions and bank reporting requirements are a key way federal authorities are made aware of potential criminal activity. When people who are not committing any other crime structure their transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements, they detract scarce federal resources from investigations into criminal wrongdoing, like former House Speakers allegedly receiving bribes and paying off blackmailers.

Do whatever you want, just don't structure transactions to evade reporting requirements

If you're worried your bank or credit union will close your account if you repeatedly deposit or withdraw more than $10,000 at once, the solution is not to break up your deposits into smaller amounts in order to evade reporting requirements. That's structuring, it's a crime, and it exposes you to criminal prosecution and civil forfeiture.

The solution is to find a better bank or credit union, one that won't mind filing the Currency Transaction Reports required for transactions exceeding $10,000.

If you think that's too much of a hassle, consider the alternative.


We live in a society governed by laws. As long as you don't break any of those laws, the federal government will leave you alone the overwhelming majority of the time (state and local governments pose additional problems).

Structuring transactions to avoid reporting requirements is a federal crime. If you don't do it, you won't be charged by federal authorities with doing it.