House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Ranking Member John Lewis (D-GA) today released the following statements after the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) outlined the actions it would take to help small business owners and farmers wronged by the agency's civil asset forfeiture abuses.
The IRS response comes after repeated calls from the Oversight Subcommittee to resolve pending civil asset forfeiture cases and return wrongly seized assets.
In its letter, the IRS told the Oversight Subcommittee that the agency and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have implemented a new review process to deliver justice to taxpayers whose assets may have been seized unfairly.
"I'm glad to see the IRS finally recognize the need to return the money they stole from innocent Americans," Chairman Roskam said. "It took two years, two hearings, and letters from every Republican and Democratic Member of the Oversight Subcommittee, but we can now see justice on the horizon. I'm encouraged by this latest development and look forward to continuing our oversight work to make sure the Justice Department also follows through on its pledge to deliver justice to the victims of civil asset forfeiture abuse."
"I am pleased that the IRS is taking clear steps to respond to the strong bipartisan concerns raised in our recent hearing on this grave matter. The IRS and the Department of Justice must make every effort to do what is right for small business owners who were not engaged in illegal activities but were unintentionally captured by the law. We must right this wrong once and for all," said Ranking Member Lewis.
The Ways and Means Committee will continue its bipartisan fight for justice for American taxpayers.
For almost two years, the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee has been investigating the IRS's use of civil asset forfeiture to seize assets from small businesses and individuals suspected of structuring financial transactions to avoid reporting requirements triggered by transactions of more than $10,000, as well as the DOJ's handling of these cases in court. Many of these small businesses and individuals were not aware that structuring is a crime or intended to avoid any reporting requirements.
The Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee has repeatedly urged the IRS and DOJ in letters and during hearings to review all of the cases before the new policy was put into place to ensure that people were treated fairly.
On Friday, June 10, 2016, the IRS told the Subcommittee that it will send letters to everyone from whom it had seized assets based on allegations of structuring from October 2009 onward, affecting about 700 cases. Those people can send petitions to the IRS to see if they qualify to get some or all of their money back. People whose assets were seized before October 2009 also can contact the IRS to see if they are eligible to get their money back.
The IRS also has changed its internal policies to require agents to include
evidence of illegal source in affidavits before seizing money going forward.