Skip to Content

What amount triggers IRS?

As part of their efforts to combat illegal activities and ensure financial transparency, the IRS and other federal agencies closely monitor large cash transactions. Under the Bank Secrecy Act, certain businesses are required to notify the authorities whenever anyone engages in cash transactions involving more than $10,000. This reporting requirement plays a vital role in deterring money laundering, preventing tax evasion, and detecting other illicit activities. In this blog post, we will delve into the specifics of these reporting requirements, the businesses subject to them, and the rationales behind their implementation.

Overview of the Bank Secrecy Act

The Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) was enacted in 1970 with the primary objective of combating money laundering and strengthening the financial integrity of the United States. The act requires financial institutions and various businesses to keep records and report certain financial transactions in order to deter criminal activities. The BSA is enforced by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which is a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The BSA applies to a wide range of businesses, including financial institutions, currency dealers or exchangers, check cashers, casinos and gambling establishments, and businesses engaged in the sale of goods or services. These businesses are known as “financial institutions” under the BSA and are subject to numerous reporting and record-keeping requirements.

Reporting Requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act

Under the BSA, a “large cash transaction” is defined as any cash transaction involving more than $10,000. This threshold triggers the reporting requirement, and businesses must notify the IRS and other federal agencies about such transactions. The reporting is done through the filing of Currency Transaction Reports (CTRs), which provides vital information about the transaction, including the identities of the individuals involved.

The notification process requires businesses to file CTRs within 15 days of the transaction. The reports include details such as the date and nature of the transaction, the names and addresses of the individuals involved, and the identification numbers of their identification documents. This information helps the authorities to track and investigate potentially suspicious activities.

Non-compliance with the reporting requirements can result in severe penalties, including hefty fines and imprisonment. The penalties aim to deter businesses from intentionally failing to file CTRs or engaging in any other forms of non-compliance.

Businesses Subject to Reporting Requirements

The reporting requirements of the BSA apply to a variety of businesses. These include financial institutions such as banks, credit unions, and money services businesses. Currency dealers or exchangers, who buy or sell currency as a business, are also subject to reporting requirements.

Check cashers, who provide check cashing services in exchange for a fee, must comply with the reporting rules under the BSA. Additionally, casinos and gambling establishments are required to report large cash transactions made by their customers.

Furthermore, businesses involved in the sale of goods or services are subject to reporting requirements if they receive large amounts of cash. This provision helps ensure that cash-based businesses such as car dealerships, jewelers, and high-end retailers are not used as conduits for money laundering or other illicit activities.

Rationale Behind Reporting Large Cash Transactions

The reporting of large cash transactions serves several important purposes in the fight against financial crimes. One significant objective is to combat money laundering. Money laundering involves disguising the origins of illegal funds to make them appear legitimate. By imposing reporting requirements, the authorities can identify suspicious transactions and investigate the source of funds.

Another key rationale is to prevent tax evasion. Large cash transactions can be used to avoid detection of taxable income or to evade taxes altogether. By monitoring these transactions, the IRS can assess whether individuals and businesses are accurately reporting their income and paying their fair share of taxes.

Additionally, reporting large cash transactions can help in the detection of other illegal activities, such as drug trafficking. Drug dealers often deal in cash to avoid a paper trail that could lead to their criminal activities. By reporting cash transactions over $10,000, businesses help law enforcement agencies track down and disrupt illegal drug operations.

Challenges in Monitoring Large Cash Transactions

While the reporting requirements under the BSA are crucial, there are challenges in effectively monitoring large cash transactions. One challenge is individuals engaging in suspicious transactions using evasive tactics to conceal their activities. They may split transactions into smaller amounts or use multiple aliases to avoid triggering the reporting threshold.

Another challenge is coordinating efforts between different agencies and businesses. Multiple agencies, including the IRS, FinCEN, and law enforcement authorities, work together to identify and investigate potential financial crimes. Effective coordination and information sharing are essential to ensure successful enforcement of reporting requirements.

Balancing individual privacy rights with the need for surveillance is another challenge. Cash transactions often involve personal financial information that individuals may prefer to keep private. Striking the right balance between privacy and the necessity for surveillance is an ongoing challenge for regulators and lawmakers.

Recent Trends and Developments

In recent years, there has been an increased focus on virtual currencies and digital transactions as potential vehicles for financial crimes. The rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin has prompted regulators to develop new frameworks to ensure compliance with anti-money laundering and know-your-customer regulations.

Furthermore, international cooperation in combating financial crimes has become increasingly important. Money laundering and other illicit activities often involve cross-border transactions. Collaboration between different countries’ law enforcement agencies and financial intelligence units is essential to track and disrupt global illicit financial flows.


The monitoring and reporting of large cash transactions play a vital role in deterring money laundering, preventing tax evasion, and detecting other financial crimes. The Bank Secrecy Act imposes reporting requirements on various businesses, ensuring that financial transactions involving more than $10,000 are closely examined by the authorities. By complying with these requirements, businesses contribute to a safer and more transparent financial system. Ongoing efforts are being made to improve monitoring and compliance, taking into account technological advancements and evolving methods of financial crime.


  1. Common IRS Audit Triggers – Bloomberg Tax
  2. Top 10 IRS Audit Triggers and What to Do if Audited
  3. IRS Audit Triggers – The Balance
  4. IRS audit triggers for 2022
  5. Tax Audits: Triggers and Tips