Roskam calls DOJ abuse of civil asset forfeiture ‘indefensible’ and ‘shameful’
Washington, D.C. – Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL), joined his colleagues on the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee to question representatives from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) on their abuse of civil asset forfeiture.
Representative Roskam discovered that while the IRS recommended DOJ return funds to taxpayers for 76% of the petitions received, DOJ chose to return funds in only 16% of cases. During the hearing, Rep. Roskam took the DOJ to task for refusing to return the seized assets of small business owners with no criminal background, calling it ‘indefensible’ and ‘shameful.’
“I think the way the Department of Justice has approached this is not admirable… You’re defending something that is indefensible and the notion that people at DOJ have this kind of power and this kind of discretion and can run roughshod over innocent people and basically get stiff-armed and say, ‘Well, you pled guilty and now we’re going to use your guilty plea against you, even though we manipulated a guilty plea,’ that’s shameful,” said Roskam.
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- In 2015, during his time as Chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee, Rep. Roskam led efforts to rein in the IRS and DOJ and force a change in policy regarding civil asset forfeitures.
- In 2017, joined by former ranking member of the Oversight Subcommittee, John Lewis (D-GA), Roskam and Lewis urged Attorney General Sessions to expedite asset forfeiture refunds to the victims of forfeiture abuse.
- In 2017, Roskam and Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), 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. The House Committee on Ways and Means voted to unanimously pass the RESPECT Act to rein in IRS asset forfeiture abuse in structuring cases; the House of Representatives also voted 415-0 to unanimously pass the bill.
- Earlier this year as part of the larger IRS Redesign bill package, the House passed H.R. 1843 – the Clyde Hirsch Sowers Restraining Excessive Seizure of Property through the Exploitation of Civil Asset Forfeiture Tools (RESPECT) Act which addresses IRS overreach by limiting their civil asset forfeiture authority. The bill would require the IRS to show probable cause that the funds of a business suspected of criminal activity were derived from an illegal source or connected to other criminal activity. It also would provide important procedural protections, including a post-seizure hearing, for people whose assets the IRS has seized within 30 days after the seizure, or longer, if the asset-owner requests an extension. If a court determines the government should return funds and interest to a person whose funds were seized by the IRS based on allegations of structuring, the interest will be exempt from income tax.
- Congressman Roskam uncovered that while the IRS recommended DOJ return funds to taxpayers for 76% of the petitions received, DOJ chose to return funds in only 16% of cases.