Today, the House Committee on Ways and Means voted to unanimously pass the "Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers-RESPECT Act" to rein in IRS asset forfeiture abuse in structuring cases. The bill, introduced by U.S. Representatives Peter J. Roskam (R-IL), Chairman of the Ways & Means Subcommittee on Tax Policy, and Joseph Crowley (D-NY), is named for Andrew Clyde; Jeffrey, Richard, and Mitch Hirsch; and Randy Sowers -- all small business owners victimized by the IRS.
Chairman Roskam issued the following statement:
"Today we took another step forward in our fight to end abusive civil asset forfeiture practices. It's clear to everyone involved that the IRS and DOJ abused their authority and took money from people who did nothing wrong. This bill will end that practice once and for all. Furthermore I am pleased with the progress that we have made with the Internal Revenue Service and I look forward to the Department of Justice following suit and returning funds seized from innocent Americans using a law intended to target drug traffickers, terrorists, and criminal enterprises. I appreciate the tireless efforts of Ranking Member John Lewis and Congressman Joe Crowley on this bipartisan bill."
Rep. Crowley issued the following statement:
"Although civil asset forfeiture may have begun as a tool to combat criminal activity, it has morphed into a complex process that unfairly entangles innocent individuals. There is no question that these laws are deeply flawed and the process is riddled with abuse. I am proud to work with Congressman Roskam on this legislation, and I look forward to passage of this bill."
U.S. Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have introduced companion legislation.
In May of 2016, 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.
Just a month later, 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 2016 hearing, finally got his money back in July as a result of the Subcommittee's work.
Most recently, in September of 2016, the House of Representatives voted 415-0 to unanimously pass the "Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers-RESPECT Act" to prohibit this abusive practice.