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IRS urged to return wrongly seized money to citizens

Georgia residents may have heard about lawmakers who sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service commissioner, the U.S. attorney general and the secretary of the Treasury regarding the return of funds that were wrongly seized from taxpayers in certain civil asset forfeitures. The letter originated from the members of the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee under the direction of the subcommittee chairman and a ranking member.

In the past, the subcommittee has repeatedly expressed its concern about the use of civil asset forfeitures by law enforcement agencies and the IRS. In fact, in December 2014, the former chair of the subcommittee and a ranking member introduced bipartisan legislation called Bill to Curb IRS Civil Asset Forfeitures. The bill would protect American citizens from having their money wrongfully seized by civil asset forfeitures. In August 2015, the subcommittee requested the IRS to return funds to victims that had been wrongfully targeted.

In February 2016, several victims of the forfeitures testified during a subcommittee hearing and said they were accused of structuring their cash transactions or trying to avoid banking law reporting requirements by making transactions less than $10,000. The purpose of the asset forfeitures is meant to alert government officials of terrorists or people who are money laundering so they can be prosecuted. However, many of the victims were found to be owners of small businesses who had obtained the funds legally. Since then, the IRS said it was changing the policy to focus on other criminal activity.

Those who have had their assets seized by the IRS or think this may happen might benefit by seeking the assistance of an attorney who handles tax issues. In such cases, the attorney may be able to prevent further attempts by the IRS to garnish a person's wages.

Source: Accounting Today, "Lawmakers Prod IRS to Return Funds Seized from Taxpayers", Michael Cohn, March 23, 2016

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