Senators Scott, Brown Lead Effort to Stop the IRS’s Abuse of its Civil Forfeiture Authority

Washington – After reports showed the IRS seized and refused to return assets to law-abiding citizens, U.S Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced the Restraining Excessive Seizure of Property through Exploitation of Civil Asset Forfeiture Tools (RESPECT) Act.

During an extensive, nearly two-year investigation, the U.S. House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee looked into the actions that showed the unjustified overreach of the IRS’s civil forfeiture authority. In multiple instances it was discovered the IRS had seized civil assets from small business owners without providing substantial evidence to support their claim. In order to counter the claim, the small business owners had to present the case to the Justice Department, a procedure that is often costly and lengthy. Instead, many claimants would choose to settle, a move that drained their resources, and as a result negatively impacted their employees.

“Government entities should not be allowed to seize Americans’ property without first meeting a set burden of proof,” said Scott. “A Congressional investigation found that the IRS has taken advantage of their civil forfeiture authority, and seized property without justification. The residual effects hurt our small business owners, and by extension their employees. It is time we work toward restoring basic constitutional rights to our citizens.”

“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.”

As it stands, the IRS is legally able to seize Americans’ property without having to meet a burden of proof. If passed, the RESPECT Act would require the IRS to show probable cause explicitly showing wrongdoing before seizing assets. It would also create a clearer path for business owners and individuals to present proof that would clear them of wrongdoing, and would allow them to get their property back.

The full text of the bill can be read here.

The House version of the bill sponsored by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) was introduced last week.