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Bipartisan W&M Action Delivers Justice to Victims of IRS Abuse

July 05, 2016

After years of legal battles and two testimonies before the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, Maryland farmer Randy Sowers is finally getting his wrongly-seized money back from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 

Sowers, whose family owns and operates a dairy farm in Frederick County, Maryland, was forced to forfeit $29,500 after the IRS threatened to prosecute him and his wife for allegedly structuring their bank deposits to avoid IRS reporting requirements. As Sowers testified before the Subcommittee:

“We were scared to death to think they could throw my wife in jail for depositing money into the bank.”

As Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam (R-IL) said to Randy Sowers and other victims of IRS abuse at our recent hearing on civil asset forfeiture policies:

The IRS has used a law that’s meant to help catch drug runners and terrorists to instead punish farmers and small business owners … That’s unethical, it’s wrong, and it’s happened in more than one case.

We are sticking with you. You reflect a larger group and we are going to do our best to make sure that a coequal branch of government is held to account for what we think is an abuse.”

Last week, after two years of robust bipartisan congressional oversight, the IRS announced that it would return to Sowers all the money he and his family had forfeited years earlier.

In response to the long-awaited conclusion of Randy Sowers’ case, Chairman Roskam said:

“It’s never too late to do the right thing. I’m glad the IRS stepped up and finally gave Randy Sowers his money back. His case was an affront to justice and the government can never truly compensate him for the ordeal it put him through. I only hope he can take comfort in the knowledge that his bravery and willingness to testify in front of Congress will ensure more American families do not suffer the same indignity.”

The news comes just weeks after the IRS started complying with Congress’ repeated bipartisan calls to resolve pending civil asset forfeiture cases and return wrongly seized assets. 

It also follows the introduction of the Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers-RESPECT Act (H.R. 5523), bipartisan legislation named after Randy Sowers and other victims of IRS abuse. The legislation, introduced by Chairman Roskam and Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) last month, will prevent hardworking taxpayers from being forced to forfeit their legally-earned assets in the future. Specifically, the bill will:

  • Require the IRS to show probable cause that funds were derived from an illegal source or connected to other criminal activity before the agency can seize funds;
  • Implement important procedural protections for taxpayers whose assets the IRS has seized, including a post-seizure hearing within 30 days after the seizure, or longer, if the asset-owner requests an extension; and
  • Exempt interest on wrongly seized funds from income tax if a court determines the government must return the funds and interest accrued to the victim of IRS abuse.

The Ways and Means Committee is expected to markup the legislation soon as it continues its bipartisan effort to hold the IRS accountable and bring justice to victims of IRS abuse.