WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of House lawmakers, including Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulsen, will introduce a bill later today that would give police more access to tax information that supporters say could be used to locate missing children.
The bill would allow local law enforcement to retrieve information from federal tax returns (so long as they get permission from a court order) that they could then use to track people who are believed to have abducted children from their families. The House version is largely similar to one introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar in January.
More than a quarter of the 800,000 missing children reports each year are the result of abductions from within the family, according to the Department of Justice. Treasury officials say more than one-third of family abductors who continue to file tax returns include their child’s social security number. As such, lawmakers contend giving law enforcement access to tax information will help them locate those children.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Klobuchar’s version of the bill in March. Patty Wetterling, whose son Jacob was never found after he was kidnapped near the family’s St. Joseph, Minn. home in 1989, testified in favor of the bill.
“I support efforts to give government agencies the authority they need to share information with law enforcement in these cases,” she said then. “Parents of missing children don’t care about jurisdictional boundaries — they care about getting their child back.”
But some witnesses and lawmakers, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Internal Revenue Service, raised privacy concerns, and argued against loosening laws guarding IRS privacy.
Paulsen and Klobuchar will appear at a press conference introducing the new bill on Wednesday morning, along with its chief House author, California Democrat Pete Stark.
Devin Henry is an intern in MinnPost’s Washington Bureau.