I once actually checked up on this

Going to the DMV to pay his bill, he wheeled in five wheelbarrows of coins, weighing in at 1,600 pounds.

It took staff at least seven hours to count the coins, working until early on Thursday morning.

To pay the $3,000 bill, he had spent just over $1,000 in purchasing the wheelbarrows and hiring people to break open the hundreds of rolls of coins.

He paid the bill in US pennies. Unwrapped and loose.

And one day, after a similar sort of thing, I checked up on it all. Called the US Mint, the BoE. And US coins are legal tender. You can pay a debt with them, in any amount. UK ones are not. Can’t recall the actual numbers but you can only demand to pay in pennies up to 20 p, ten p up to a couple of quid and so on.

And yes, you could pay the IRS your entire tax bill in those wheelbarrows of unwrapped pennies. There was an intimation that you might have an ever so slightly raised possibility of being randomly audited if you did but they would have to take the money…..

24 thoughts on “I once actually checked up on this”

  1. You are right, it is 20p.

    But I have for years been paying £ 30 in one pence coins, by wrapping them in a delivery box and pretending to be a courier at reception.

    Works every time !

  2. Yes, quite so. American money is different though. They must accept it. “payment of all debts public and private” thus the IRS really would have to take $500,000 in unsorted pennies. Here you could be told to take a hike.

  3. Doesn’t work in France: I seem to recall a short sentence on the bottom of my tax bill to the effect that you can’t pay this in cash if it’s over 100 Euros, or something.

  4. So Much For Subtlety

    On the other hand, it is legal to write a cheque on the side of a pig.

    Not sure if they have to give the animal back though.

  5. So Much For Subtlety

    Andy – “Why did they just not weigh them?”

    Because anyone can pass off a bunch of blanks as real coins. If you weigh something you don’t know much except the weight. You would normally have to know the volume as well. But even then, that would not help as modern coins are just cheap metal.

    Someone needs to look at each one.

  6. In the UK, any amount in £1 coins (and £2 coins, and £5 coins, up to £100 pound coins – yes, they do exist) is legal tender and *must* be accepted, if proffered, in order to settle a debt. (Note – providing change is not a legal requirement.)

    50p’s can be used to settle a debt up to £10 and so on down to 1p’s to settle 20p.

    Of course, if mutually agreed, the limits may be exceeded, and change provided.


  7. way back AT&T charged me a load of extras when i cancelled my service after 3 months so I overpaid it. Satisfied me greatly to receive a cheque back for a penny.

  8. Satisfied me greatly to receive a cheque back for a penny.

    In a similar vein, I managed to maintain a negative balance (less than £1 IIRC) on a credit card. For several years.

    They had to post me a statement every month…

  9. SMFS, just because British speech codes haven’t yet rendered promissory pigs illegal doesn’t mean anyone’s obliged to accept them, any more than the paper variety – due to the risk of them bouncing, primarily.

  10. I believe that the belief in the legality of a promissory pig may stem from the sadly fictional case of the Negotiable Cow (Board of Inland Revenue v Haddock; Rex v Haddock), chronicled by A P Herbert and readable online.

  11. Why did they just not weigh them?

    Big supermarkets have machines that can sort hundreds of pounds worth of coins in seconds, and reject anything that doesn’t exactly conform to the size and weight of a real coin.

    If the DMV had thought to pop into the nearest Wallmart and ask a favour, they would have saved themselves hours of work. But as BiW said, the public sector isn’t there to think.

  12. So Much For Subtlety said:
    “modern coins are just cheap metal”

    Wasn’t there a problem recently that rising metal prices meant that the metal value of some low-value coins was about equal to, or even exceeded, their face value? In which case whether they’re genuine coins or blanks doesn’t make much difference commercial (although it does legally).

  13. Big supermarkets have machines that can sort hundreds of pounds worth of coins in seconds, and reject anything that doesn’t exactly conform to the size and weight of a real coin.

    Unsurprisingly, big banks have even bigger versions of these. It was the first installation of a new generation in (iirc) a BoS cash centre that uncovered the forged £1 coin issue of about a decade ago.

  14. SE, presumably initially there were complaints that the machine wasn’t working because it was rejecting too many coins?

  15. In the US you are not *required* to accept any particular form of payment.

    However, as a government agency this might be different – those should, at the least, be required to take payment in any form of US currency offered. After all, if the federal government is going to hammer people creating their own currencies then those fethers can’t complain about getting paid in useless pennies.

  16. From the pictures provided in the article there is proof that Mr Stafford has committed a crime. The five visible Post Office hods are being used for a non-sanctioned use and open up the possibility of federal charges.

    I have no problem with the particular law. Misuse of the equipment is stealing. The point is one has to be careful not to commit other crimes when attempting to stick it to the man.

  17. LY, just to be clear: you have no problem with the application of the criminal law against a man for using wheelbarrow in a ‘non-sanctioned’ manner?

  18. As long as the wheelbarrow isn’t stolen property, of course not.

    The key is that there are strict laws about postal property because theft was a big problem. Similarly there is a fine of $500 for misuse of a milk create.

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