Tax privacy is important. Your tax records have a lot of very personal information; information that, in the wrong hands, can be used to hurt you. We get it. But should tax privacy laws trump a criminal investigation? The answer depends on who you ask. Ask someone whose child has been abducted, and the answer is a resounding “NO.”
It turns out that the IRS frequently has information about missing children but does not aid investigators. How can we protect children while still maintaining the privacy of innocent taxpayers?
For parents of missing children, any scrap of information that could lead to an abductor is precious.
Three years into an excruciating search for her abducted son, Susan Lau got such a tip. Her estranged husband, who had absconded with their 9-year-old from Brooklyn, had apparently filed a tax return claiming the boy as an exemption.
Investigators moved quickly to seek the address where his tax refund had been mailed. But the Internal Revenue Service was not forthcoming.
“They just basically said forget about it,” said Julianne Sylva, a child abduction investigator who is now deputy district attorney in Santa Clara County, Calif.