In a continuing battle between taxpayer privacy and protecting children, we may finally strike a compromise. A new bill sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar would allow the IRS to give police addresses of people who claimed missing children as tax dependents. Currently the agency is barred from providing this information, a law that has hampered police investigations for year.
"This is a great tool for law enforcement," said Patty Wetterling, mother of Jacob Wetterling, who disappeared near St. Joseph, Minn., in 1989 and still has not been found. Wetterling, who is vice chairwoman of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and was a candidate for Congress in 2006, accompanied Klobuchar at a news conference Sunday in Hopkins.
Klobuchar said there are numerous examples of noncustodial parents or other child abductors who have sought tax deductions by claiming the children they've taken as deductions. The adults may have changed their own names but use the child's Social Security number on tax returns.
A 2007 study by the Treasury Department, which includes the IRS, examined the Social Security numbers of 1,700 missing children and the relatives suspected of abducting them, and found that more than one-third had been used in tax returns filed after the abductions took place. But the IRS cannot release any information on the returns unless a parental abduction is being investigated as a federal crime and a federal judge orders the information released. Most parental abduction cases are investigated by state and local prosecutors.
Hopkins Police Chief Mike Reynolds said that the setup amounts to "a one-way street" between the IRS and authorities searching for missing children. "This is a bill that just makes sense," said Reynolds, who also spoke at the news conference.