Millions of Americans recently filed their income tax returns. According to an article by David Kocieniewski in The New York Times approximately 200,000 of those filers are involved in abducting their own child. While I found this statistic to be shocking, perhaps more shocking is that these abductors claim their kidnapped children as dependents on their tax return. What would otherwise be a concrete lead on one of the 12,000 abductions that go on beyond six months is instead a dead-end pending a court order from a federal judge.
Parental abductions are usually a product of a contentious custody case or abusive domestic situations. A parent simply vanishes with the child. Oddly enough, however, many of these individuals file their tax returns. As Mr. Kocieniewski’s article points out, who knows the reasons why they would go ahead and file a tax return after having taken the step of kidnapping child? What is undoubtedly an unintentional consequence of post-Watergate security legislation, however, requires a kidnapping to be investigated by federal law enforcement (most abductions are invested by local law enforcement) and a federal court order requiring the I.R.S. to turn this information over to investigators.
So while the I.R.S. regulations allow for the dissemination of information for child support cases, the guidelines for addressing criminal cases sets a higher burden on the party seeking information. Tax returns are extremely useful in family law cases and the difficulty in utilizing them to return a child to his or her parent is a tragic consequence of the law protecting confidential information.