House advances bill to curb IRS asset forfeiture abuses

The U.S. House of Representatives advanced a bill this week that would rein in asset forfeiture abuse by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in structuring cases.

The Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers Restraining Excessive Seizure of Property through the Exploitation of Civil asset forfeiture Tools (RESPECT) Act, which was introduced by Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and passed by voice vote. It was named for Andrew Clyde; Jeffrey, Richard, and Mitch Hirsch; and Randy Sowers – all small business owners who wrongfully had assets seized by the IRS.

“Today we took a big step toward delivering justice for victims of IRS abuse,” Roskam said. “It’s clear to everyone involved that 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. I want to thank the Clyde, Hirsch, Sowers, and Taylor families for their bravery and willingness to share their stories in the hopes of preventing future injustice.”

The legislation revises the authority so that the IRS can only seize property that has been structured to avoid Bank Secrecy Act reporting requirements if comes from an illegal source or is tied to a criminal act.

“Civil asset forfeiture started as a tool to combat criminal activity but it has morphed into a complex process that can unfairly entangle innocent Americans,” Crowley said. “There is no question the process is flawed and need of reform. That’s why I’m proud to partner with Congressman Roskam to pass this critical legislation.”

U.S. Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.