H.R. 5833: Taxpayer Protections Against Abusive Seizures Act

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) introduced the Taxpayer Protections Against Abusive Seizures Act, legislation that provides taxpayers with protections against the inappropriate application of civil forfeiture laws. These laws were enacted to curtail money laundering and terrorist activities, but a recent report in the New York Times indicates that they have also been used to seize funds from some small businesses, in some cases leaving them with no working capital to make payroll and maintain needed inventory.

The laws are designed to prevent a practice called “structuring,” the act of making small cash deposits to avoid the $10,000 bank-reporting threshold that is commonly used by drug dealers, money launderers, and terrorist entities to avoid detection by authorities. The laws authorize the government to seize the funds of those found engaging in structuring, and in the instance reported in the New York Times, there were inadequate opportunities for the business owner to challenge the seizures. 

The legislation would provide that an affected person, within fourteen days of receiving a notice of a seizure, may request a court to hold a probable cause hearing within fourteen days of such request. Additionally, the bill provides that if, within fourteen days of such request, no hearing is held, or if the government fails to show probable cause, the seized funds are automatically returned to the individual.

Additional resources:

1.      Text of the bill (as introduced)

2.      Press release with statements from co-sponsors