Roskam looks to end unlitigated IRS asset grabs
The bipartisan effort to rein in the federal government practice of seizing funds without charging taxpayers with a crime continues this week, with U.S. Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Joseph Crowley (D-NY) leading the charge.
Before Ways & Means Tax Policy Chairman Roskam and Democratic Caucus Chair Crowley teamed up to introduce the RESPECT Act, it was common practice for the Internal Revenue Service to seize taxpayers' bank accounts if the agency suspected "structuring" of cash deposits.
Structuring is the practice of making frequent deposits of small amounts of cash to avoid regulatory oversight. While small-business owners and farmers might legitimately make frequent deposits or transfers, the IRS and the Department of Justice alleged that the transfers signaled criminal activities and seized the taxpayers' funds without charging them with a crime.
“It’s clear to everyone involved that there was rampant abuse in the forfeiture program," Roskam said. "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.”
The original bill, the Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers-RESPECT Act, passed the House in a 415-0 vote in September but ran out of time in the Senate. The representatives have picked up where they left off in the last Congress. In addition, U.S. Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) are introducing companion legislation in the Senate.
“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," Crowley said. "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."
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