Senators Scott, Brown Introduce Bill to Prevent the IRS’s Unfounded Seizure of Civil Assets

WASHINGTON, DC -Following reports of the IRS seizing and refusing to return the assets of law-abiding, small business owners, U.S. Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the bipartisan Restraining Excessive Seizure of Property through Exploitation of Civil Asset Forfeiture Tools (RESPECT) Act.

For nearly two years, theU.S. House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee has investigated the IRS’s unlawful abuse of its civil forfeiture authority. Despiteseveral small business owners providing evidence of no wrongdoing, the IRS seized their assets without requiring any set burden of proof. To challenge the claim, these small business owners were forced to take the case to the Department of Justice; a process that was often unnecessarily lengthy and expensive. Many claimants chose to settle instead, and in the process lost a portion of their assets, despite having done nothing wrong.

“It all comes down to fairness,” said Scott. “The IRSshould not have the ability to seize property without first meeting a basic, set burden of proof. The investigation carried out by ourcolleagues in the House has shown how damaging the haphazard government seizure of assets can be for small business owners, and by extension their employees. I am proud to join Senator Brown to introduce this important legislation that will protect all American taxpayers, prevent unlawful government intrusion, and restore basic constitutional rights.”

“Plain and simple, the IRS can’t take your property if you haven’t done anything wrong – it’s one of the most basic protections in our constitution,” Brown said. “This bill preserves the IRS’ ability to go after criminals, while also protecting law-abiding business owners from having their property illegally seized, and making sure those who are found innocent can get their property back without having to jump through hoops.”

Under current law, the IRS is able to seize Americans’ assets without meeting any standard burden of proof. If passed, the RESPECT ACT would require the IRS to show probable cause that funds were “derived from an illegal source or connected to other criminal activity,” before seizing assets. It would also set up a process to ensure business owners and individuals who can show proof they are innocent of wrongdoing can get their property back.

The House version of the bill, “Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers RESPECT Act,” passed unanimously last week.