Parents of children who have been abducted by former spouses and family members have an unexpected ally in the search for their child. The problem in their fight to regain child custody is that this unexpected ally possesses a stockpile of information but is reluctant to use it. Every year the Internal Revenue Service gathers information on parental child abductors that file tax returns. The problem is that the I.R.S. hesitates to use the information because it wants to protect taxpayer privacy. In this post, we will share the story of a mother’s search to find her son and how privacy laws both helped and impeded the search. In our next post, we will take a look at the conflict of laws that has led to the hesitation by the I.R.S.
It took five years for a mother from Brooklyn to find her 9-year-old son. Her ex-husband had taken their son and left town. After the first three frustrating years of the search, the mother received a tip from the I.R.S. after she tried to claim her son as an exemption on her taxes. The I.R.S. informed the woman that she could not claim the exemption because her former husband had already claimed their son on his filed tax return. Investigators working with the mother contacted the I.R.S. for the ex-husband’s address, but the I.R.S. refused.
A child investigator who was on the case said,”[The I.R.S.] just basically said forget about it.” The mother’s search continued for another two years after the I.R.S. refusal. She eventually found her son in Utah after her son’s photo was recognized from a missing child flier. Like the mother from Brooklyn, so many other American parents could use the information collected from tax returns to aid in their search. Every year almost 200,000 children are abducted by family members in the United States. Most of the abductions come from child custody disputes between former spouses. In our next post, we will take a look at the legal tension between the I.R.S. and the child abduction investigations.
Sources: The New York Times, “I.R.S. Sits on Data Pointing to Missing Children,” David Kocieniewski, 11/12/10