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Proposal Would Aid in Finding Children

A U.S. senator is sponsoring a bill that could aid parents of missing or kidnapped children by relaxing one Internal Revenue Service rule. The senator said she was motivated to propose the legislation by stories of noncustodial parents disappearing with their children as well as high-profile stories like Elizabeth Smart's.

When a noncustodial parent, for example, takes a child in the midst of a custody battle, he or she will try to disappear. Traveling from state to state, assuming false identities -- these abductors will do their best to avoid detection by law enforcement authorities. Many succeed.

What this senator has discovered is that some abductors will leave a trail. Without a law change, however, the information that could help reunite a missing child with a parent cannot be shared with law enforcement agencies.

The IRS collects the Social Security numbers and addresses of individuals who file taxes. Included in the tax filing is the Social Security number and address of the taxpayer's dependents. In about a third of cases of abduction by a family member, the abductor will claim that child as a dependent, using the child's real Social Security number.

Under current privacy laws, however, the IRS cannot share that information with local law enforcement, the agencies that investigate the majority of parental abduction cases. The IRS can only release the information if the investigation is being conducted by a federal agency and if a federal judge orders the IRS to release the information.

This bill would allow the IRS to share that information with state and local prosecutors. The change would cost taxpayers nothing.

Resource: StarTribune (Minneapolis, MN) "Law Could Allow IRS to Help Find Kids" 01/12/11

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