U.S. Representatives Peter J. Roskam (R-IL) and Joseph Crowley (D-NY) are continuing their efforts to rein in asset forfeiture abuse.
As first reported by The Daily Beast, Roskam, who serves as Ways & Means Tax Policy Chairman, and Crowley, who chairs the Democratic Caucus, "introduced the RESPECT Act...which would limit the IRS's ability to seize people's money without first charging them with a crime."
As Chairman of the Ways & Means Subcommittee on Oversight during the last Congress, Roskam led a comprehensive investigation into Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) practices that led the IRS to change its policies and formally apologize to victims of forfeiture abuse.
This bill unanimously passed the House by a 415-0 vote late last year. U.S. Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are introducing companion legislation and expect swift consideration in the upper chamber.
Chairman Roskam released the following statement:
"It's clear to everyone involved that there was rampant abuse in the forfeiture program. The IRS and DOJ abused their authority and took money from people who did nothing wrong. With today's legislation, we're making sure they can never do it again. With the support of so many lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, we can finally put this ugly chapter to rest."
Chairman Crowley released the following statement:
"Civil asset forfeiture may have begun as a tool to combat criminal activity, but it has morphed into a complex process that unfairly entangles innocent individuals. There is no question that the laws are deeply flawed and the process was riddled with abuse. I am proud to work with Congressman Roskam on this legislation."
Last September, the House of Representatives voted 415-0 to unanimously pass the "Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers-RESPECT Act". The bill was named for Andrew Clyde; Jeffrey, Richard, and Mitch Hirsch; and Randy Sowers -- all small business owners victimized by forfeiture abuse.
In May, Chairman Roskam's Ways & Means Oversight Subcommittee held a hearing on Protecting Small Businesses From IRS Abuse. Both Republicans and Democrats expressed outrage over the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Justice (DOJ)'s actions to seize the bank accounts of law-abiding American citizens. Watch Chairman Roskam's opening statement here and read the remarks here.
In June, under intense pressure from Congress, the IRS finally agreed to send letters to everyone from whom it had seized assets based on allegations of "structuring" cash deposits. These people, who had done nothing wrong, can finally get some or all of their money back.
Randy Sowers, a Maryland dairy farmer who testified at the May hearing, finally got his money back in July as a result of the Subcommittee's work.