NTU Urges Congress to Support Bipartisan Civil Forfeiture Protection Legislation

The Honorable Peter Roskam                     The Honorable Joseph Crowley
United States House of Representatives   United States House of Representatives
2246 Rayburn House Office Building        1035 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515                              Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Representative Roskam and Crowley,
On behalf of National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I write in support of your bill, H.R. 1843, the “Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers RESPECT” Act. Your bill would provide necessary protections to innocent law-abiding American citizens from widespread abuse from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by reforming the appeal process of civil forfeiture cases.
The IRS is one of the most complex and mistrusted government agencies. One of the most controversial tactics used by the IRS is civil forfeiture, or the seizure of assets if someone is suspected of committing a crime. A 2015 report from the Institute for Justice, a not-for-profit organization that has defended a number of taxpayers against IRS abuse, found that from 2005-2012 the IRS seized $242 million in 2,500 cases. Further, the IRS does not have to convict or even charge a victim with wrongdoing before seizing property and individuals face a costly, uphill battle to retrieve their assets during which time they may fall behind on their mortgage, rent, and payroll.
Under current law, the IRS may only seize property that it suspects as being derived from an illegal source or used for criminal activity. This legislation adds protections for the owners of seized property by mandating the IRS attempt to find all owners of the seized property and notify the owners of their post-seizure hearing rights within 30 days. If the owner appeals the seizure, the property must be returned unless the court finds that there is probable cause to believe that the property was derived from an illegal source or the funds were used for criminal activity. Civil forfeiture has clearly changed from a crime fighting program to one which unfairly ensnares innocent individuals. I am confident that the reforms laid out in this legislation will streamline the process for property owners to retrieve property that is rightfully theirs. NTU encourages all Representatives to support and cosponsor this piece of legislation.
Thomas Aiello
Policy and Government Affairs Associate