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Congress acts after having long noted asset-forfeiture excesses

The IRS was just taken to the woodshed by an indignant Congress for a bit of summary discipline.

What inspired a collective wrath in the House of Representatives was this: the long-time customary practice of IRS agents taking money and property from individuals and families across the country without first having any reasonable suspicion of their engagement in criminal activity.

Their grant to act in such a manner comes pursuant to the so-called "asset forfeiture" power that is ostensibly wielded as a deterrent against profits linked with criminal behavior -- especially at the organized-crime level -- like drug trafficking and money laundering.

That power, say many state and national legislators on both sides of the political aisle, is too vast and unbridled. It has led to shocking results, with small business owners in many states having had their bank accounts emptied after being targeted by the IRS. One-third of all forfeiture cases, notes a recent national report citing a prominent study, have involved "nothing more than making a series of sub-$10,000 cash transactions"

And how many mom-and-pop proprietors do that on a daily basis?

The House responded vigorously last week to IRS activity pursuant to asset forfeiture, unanimously passing a bill that seeks to check the agency's power to act and to control its behavior once it has taken money and/or other assets from parties it says have acted unlawfully.

That legislation will hopefully curb what many critics across the country view as frighteningly uncontrolled agency behavior.

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