Jon Eldan, a lawyer who runs a one-man nonprofit named After Innocence, spends his days making hundreds of phone calls to men and women who were wrongfully incarcerated, then exonerated and released from prison. Every now and then, if he’s lucky, he finds who he’s looking for — and if they’re lucky, he tells them the government owes them back taxes, sometimes to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
For years, some exonerees who were compensated for their time in prison had to pay federal income taxes on that money. That changed in 2015 with the Wrongful Conviction Tax Relief Act. Congress made the law retroactive, meaning exonerees could apply for refunds — but it didn’t come up with a way to let people know they were entitled to the money.
So Eldan took it upon himself to survey as many publicly known exonerees as possible to find those the government failed to alert.
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