A Klobuchar-sponsored bill would allow the police to get addresses of people who claimed missing kids as tax dependents.

By BILL McAULIFFE, Star Tribune

Last update: January 9, 2011 - 8:07 PM
Local police could receive a key that could help find missing children under a bill sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

The bill would allow the Internal Revenue Service to release to police the addresses of people who've filed tax returns claiming missing children as dependents. The agency is now barred from doing so, under measures adopted to protect tax filers' privacy.

"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.

Klobuchar said the bill has strong bipartisan support, with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, co-sponsoring it. That should increase its chances to pass not just the Senate but also the House, Klobuchar said.

She described the bill, which will head first to the Senate Judiciary Committee, as "a simple change" that would cost nothing.