A press release from Congressman Peter Roskam:
Roskam, Full Oversight Subcommittee Stand Up for IRS Abuse Victims
Washington, D.C. — Today, Ways & Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Peter J. Roskam (R-IL) and Ranking Member John Lewis (D-GA) led all members of the Subcommittee in calling upon the Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Justice to return funds inappropriately seized by the IRS.
The members sent Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch letters today asking that their agencies review all IRS civil asset forfeiture cases and return money to victims where warranted.
In their letter, they explain that the agencies’ actions have “unfairly harmed American citizens and have undermined Americans’ trust in their government” and call on the agencies to “give all due consideration to all pending petitions,” “to remit funds as appropriate,” and to “establish a process to review all similarly-situated cases to determine if funds should be remitted.”
- On February 11, 2015, the Subcommittee held a hearing at which victims of these seizures testified about how the IRS had seized their money based on allegations that they were “structuring” their cash transactions—that is, making transactions of under $10,000 to avoid banking law reporting requirements. The structuring statute is supposed to help the government identify and prosecute money-launderers, drug runners, and terrorists, but in a number of these cases, the IRS used it against small business owners whose funds came from legal sources. Since bringing those cases, the IRS has since announced a new policy of focusing on structuring cases involving other criminal acts.
- In August 2015, the Subcommittee called on the agencies to review all past cases in which the IRS had seized money from citizens and small businesses owners that came from legal sources and to return those funds if warranted. At a follow-up meeting in February this year, the agencies appeared not to have made any progress on this front. One week after that meeting, however, the IRS did return $150,000 to a North Carolina store owner.
- Today’s letter follows up on that February meeting. All members of the Subcommittee are concerned about the application of the IRS’s civil asset forfeiture authority and hope that the agencies find a way to demonstrate good faith in reviewing these cases and giving justice to these American citizens.