U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) today announced that their bipartisan legislation to help local law enforcement locate missing children whose whereabouts could be discovered through basic information on federal tax returns has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is currently barred from sharing taxpayer information with local law enforcement officials even though, in many cases, the IRS may have information about the location of a missing child.
"As a former prosecutor, I know that returning missing children to their families is one of the most important tasks law enforcement officers have, and they need every tool available to track these children down and bring criminals to justice," Klobuchar said. "This action is an important step forward for this legislation to help cut red tape and provide police and prosecutors access to critical information that would help bring missing children home."
"It is mind-boggling that the government possesses information to aid the search for an abducted or exploited child but is prevented from sharing that information with law enforcement because of archaic regulations. Our bill would cut through this red tape and ensure that--in the cases where tax information is on hand to help in the search for an abducted child--it is made swiftly available to authorities," Sen. Cornyn said.
"I am pleased this bipartisan legislation has been approved by the Judiciary Committee and now will move to the Senate floor," said Leahy. "This commonsense bill will help state and local law enforcement agencies obtain useful information to investigate and prosecute cases involving missing and exploited children."
Family abductors will frequently continue to file federal tax returns and claim the abducted child as a dependent. According to a Treasury Department study, captors filed missing children's Social Security numbers with the IRS in more than one-third of cases reviewed.
The Access to Information about Missing Children Act would grant law enforcement authorities access to addresses from federal tax returns, as long as they obtain court orders from a federal district court. There are already more than 30 exceptions to the general rule that the IRS cannot share information from tax filings, including exceptions for disclosures relating to the repayment of student loans, child-support payments, and certain information sought by the Census Bureau.
Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and served for eight years as the chief prosecutor for Hennepin County.