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RESPECT Act Reins in IRS Civil Forfeiture

Accepted submission by RandomFactor at 2019-07-11 16:39:26 from the what you want, baby I got dept.

It has been 20 years since Congress tightened the rules on civil forfeiture, but following unanimous approval by Congress, President Trump signed the Taxpayer First Act (H.R.3151) into law last week. This law curbs the IRS's power to seize cash for "structuring" offenses. []

Under the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, banks must report any cash transactions greater than $10,000. But if someone frequently deposits or withdraws their cash in amounts under $10,000, the IRS could seize it for “structuring.” Even though their money was earned legitimately and despite the fact that they were never charged with a crime, in 2012, the IRS seized nearly $63,000 from Randy and more than $446,000 from Jeff. It took years of litigation and high-profile coverage before they won their money back.

Structuring can be a Kafkaesque nightmare for small-business owners, especially for entrepreneurs like Jeff and Randy who work in cash-heavy industries: Jeff runs a convenience store distribution business with his brothers on Long Island, while Randy is a dairy farmer in Maryland.

Nor were the above isolated incidents.

Between 2005 and 2012, the IRS used civil forfeiture to seize nearly $200 million in over 2,100 cases. Roughly half of all seizures involved amounts under $34,000—hardly the proceeds of the sprawling criminal enterprises structuring laws were supposed to target.

The law (called the "RESPECT Act") puts in place a common sense requirement that should have been there from the beginning

the IRS can now only seize property for structuring if it’s “derived from an illegal source” or if the money were structured to conceal criminal activity.

The law codifies a policy change made by the IRS in 2014 due to multiple lawsuits and associated publicity. That change resulted in a dramatic drop in associated forfeitures ($31.8 Million in 2014 to $6.2 Million in 2015).

The law also requires that judges promptly review structuring seizures, a process which previously took months or even years while a citizen's funds remained in the hands of the government before a challenge would be heard.

Previous Civil Forfeiture Coverage []

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