The Internal Revenue Service continues to sit on data that may be helpful in tracking down thousands of missing children throughout the United States.
According to The New York Times, the government has admitted that it has access to data that could lead to finding thousands of missing children, especially those who are abducted by estranged spouses but said they cannot legally release the information due to taxpayer privacy laws.
These privacy laws, which were enacted nearly a generation ago, create several obstacles for parents and investigators and forbid the IRS from releasing any data unless the abduction is being investigated as a federal crime and a U.S. district judge demands it is released, reported the Star Tribune.
"We will do whatever we can within the confines of the law to make it easier for law enforcement to find abducted children," said Michelle Eldridge, an IRS spokeswoman to The New York Times.
A study done by the Treasury Department in 2007 looked at the Social Security numbers of 1,700 missing children found that more than a third had been used in tax returns filed after their abduction, reported the Star Tribune.
In the past, the IRS has worked with several children's advocates and has even included photographs of missing children with forms mailed to taxpayers, leading to the recovery of more than 80 children, reported the Star Tribune.
According to the Star Tribune, most of the 20,000 child abductions reported each year in the United States, involve parental abductors. A significant number of these parents later file tax returns.
"There are hundreds of cases this could help solve," said Cindy Rudometkin of the Polly Klaas Foundation told The New York Times. "And even if it helped solve one case -- imagine if that child returned home was yours."