Washington, D.C. – The Senate passed bipartisan legislation yesterday, introduced by U.S Senators Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Bob Casey, D-Penn., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., that would provide law enforcement with an additional tool to help find missing or exploited children.
The Recovering Missing Children Act would allow taxpayer information from the Internal Revenue Service to be shared with state and local law enforcement agencies to assist in the investigation of missing or exploited children. Transfer of taxpayer information would occur only if strict standards for confidentiality and protection of the information from unauthorized use were observed by the state and local agencies.
The House has already passed the legislation, introduced by Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., and it now goes to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.
“It is a terrible thought, but every year thousands of children are abducted and taken away from their homes. This bill maintains taxpayer privacy while also ensuring that the appropriate tools are available to connect missing and exploited children with their families,” Enzi said.
“If the provisions in this bill can bring one child back to their rightful families safe and sound, it is worth it,” Casey said. “This will assist those who have been searching and spending sleepless nights worried about their missing children, and do it in a way that doesn’t undermine Americans privacy.”
“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. “Our bipartisan bill will help provide police and prosecutors access to critical information that could help bring missing children home.”
An estimated 200,000 children are abducted by family members every year. An inspector general study found that in many missing children cases the IRS had new addresses on file for either the children or their alleged abductors, which could be potentially critical information for law enforcement. The bill explicitly permits the disclosure of relevant tax return information for the purpose of aiding criminal investigations into missing or exploited children.
The legislation also allows federal law enforcement to share information n a very limited basis with state and local law enforcement that are part of a task force directly involved in investigating and prosecuting such cases. Many investigations into missing and exploited children are conducted at the state and local level.