Social Security Number of Deceased Child Causes Grief

A Salem, Oregon couple suffered the loss of their baby to a rare pediatric disease early in 2000. Now the couple faces additional unexpected grief at the hands of the IRS.

An unidentified taxpayer claimed the child as a dependent on a 2000 tax return, using the child's name and Social Security number, information that was apparently found on the Internet.

The parents of the deceased child also claimed the child as a dependent on their 2000 tax return, a claim that was legal. Because another tax return had already been filed claiming the child as a dependent, the IRS rejected the claim of the true parents, telling them that the child had already been claimed on another tax return.

When the Salem police department looked into the matter, they discovered that the IRS would not part with information regarding the person who falsified the dependency claim, due to an IRS disclosure law that protects the identity of taxpayers. Judy Monahan, an IRS spokesperson, cited IRS Code Section 6103, "Confidentiality and disclosure of returns and return information," in justifying the IRS's refusal to disclose information about the person claiming the dependent.

"When Congress made these laws, they made it very tough," said Ms. Monahan. "The purpose is for the protection of the individual."

Meanwhile, Rep. Darlene Hooley, D-OR, has introduced legislation in Congress that would allow the IRS to release information to local law enforcement officials who are investigating a crime.

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