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Federal Forfeiture Revenue Trends

Federal figures alone show a similar pattern to the general trend: growth through the mid-2010s, followed by declines to early 2010s levels. This is not surprising given that a few large forfeitures drove much of the overall growth between 2012 and 2015. As the following tables and figures show, this holds true for both deposits to federal forfeiture funds and net assets, or the value of assets remaining after expenses.

Figure 2 presents data on deposits to DOJ’s Assets Forfeiture Fund (AFF) and Treasury’s Treasury Forfeiture Fund (TFF). These deposits represent proceeds from forfeitures conducted by agencies participating in DOJ’s and Treasury’s forfeiture programs, including proceeds later paid to state and local agencies participating in federal equitable sharing.

Figure 2: Total Annual Deposits to DOJ and Treasury Forfeiture Funds, FY 2000–2019

Note: Data are from DOJ’s and Treasury’s annual forfeiture reports. Figures are not adjusted for inflation.

Figure 3 presents another way of looking at federal forfeiture activity: net assets. Net assets are generally more stable over time, partly due to outlays for payments to third parties, such as victim compensation in financial fraud and other cases and equitable sharing payments to state and local law enforcement. Such payments spiked between 2016 and 2019, partly explaining the larger swings in the deposit data. Also helping to account for discrepancies between deposits and net assets are rescissions, which Congress has used to take money from the AFF and TFF and redirect it to the federal government’s general fund for other agencies to spend. Rescissions from the AFF were in the hundreds of millions each year from 2016 through 2019 and highest in 2016 and 2019. 1 The TFF likewise saw large rescissions and other cuts between 2014 and 2019. 2 As for the single spike in TFF net assets over the 20-year period, in 2015, Treasury attributes it to a $3.8 billion financial fraud forfeiture case where funds had not yet been returned to victims by fiscal year-end. 3

Figure 3: Total Net Assets of DOJ and Treasury Forfeiture Funds, FY 2000–2019

Note: Data are from DOJ’s and Treasury’s annual forfeiture reports. Figures are not adjusted for inflation.

Continue Reading: State Forfeiture Revenue Trends


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