Is it illegal to burn money?

Have you ever thought of burning currency notes even for fun? Yes, then, reconsider your decision and think Is it illegal to burn money in the US

Is it illegal to burn money in the US


Yes, it is illegal and you may get up to 10 years of imprisonment and have to pay hefty fines. According to title 18, section 333 of the United States Code, any citizen found mutilating the bills or defacing it shall have to pay more than $500 and may go to jail for more than six months. 

When a person burns the currencies, it disturbs money circulation in the economy. It results in the shrinkage of the money supply causing deflation. As a result, the value of the money in circulation increases, creating an imbalance in the economy.

The law relating to defacing or mutilating money originated from the fact that the federal government used precious metals to make coins. However now, the metal content in the coins is far less. 

It becomes an offense because the government equalizes this act with burning the American flag. It is equivalent to displaying an act of protest against the government. Similarly, writing or drawing on dollar bills is also punishable.

When the government decides to stop money circulation, it sells banknotes which are impossible when someone burns the currency notes. Usually, it is hard to catch the person who has burned the currency. 

The citizens should think twice before trying to mutilate or cut the notes before asking, “Is burning money illegal” The government spends one nickel for every currency. The demand for dollars is tremendous, and the bureau of engraving and printing issues more than 37 million notes every day.

Why it is illegal to burn money? 


If you ask me, “why it is illegal to burn money” the answer would be it disturbs the cash flow. This act creates an imbalance in the demand and supply of currency and disturbs the total equilibrium. Furthermore, replacing currency notes becomes very difficult when burned notes are unavailable. The lifespan of a currency note is 1.5 years.

The government also prohibits the willful destruction of foreign currency legally allowed in the country. No one should transfer fake banknotes to a person who receives them in good faith. The citizens wouldn’t try to destroy a currency in normal conditions, and it is rare to find a case like this.

As of now, the authorities have taken cognizance of one currency destruction case in 1963. This 18-year-old US marine- Foster, tried to destroy pennies. The government imposed a fine of $20 and sent him on one-year probation. President Obama pardoned him in 2010. This case perfectly answers the question,” Is It illegal to burn real money“?

Is it legal to burn money as it is my hard-earned salary? 


As mentioned earlier, it costs money for the government to mint coins. The government has to replace the torn note or damaged coin with a new currency note or coins of equal number. The federal reserve has to spend 5.5 cents for every substituted note or 14 cents for a damaged coin. It is a very costly affair.

Frequently Asked Questions:


Does the government destroy currency notes? 

Yes. The lifespan of a currency note is 1.5 years. After this period, the government takes back the currency to print and circulate new and crisp notes.

What is the punishment for destroying the US currency?

If you burn the currency, you may be incarcerated for 10 years and have to pay hefty fines. If you mutilate the currency notes, you may have to pay a fine of more than $500 and will be put behind the bars for 6 months.

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The simple answer to, “is it illegal to burn money?” is Yes, it is. Mutilating, defacing, or destroying is punishable according to US law. To mutilate is to cut the note into two. Defacing is scribbling or writing on the currency note, which is also punishable under US law. 

The main way it is punishable is because it costs money for the government to replace the destroyed money. Furthermore, it disturbs demand and supply equilibrium. The Federal reserve replaces old currencies by minting new notes every now and then. The life of a currency bill is 1.5 years. 

When the government tries to retract the money to print new dollar bills, it can’t take back the destroyed money. It has to print additional currency, which costs 5.5 cents for every note.

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