Are kidnapped children tax-deductible?

Smith sez, "This blog breaks down the tax code for writing off currently-kidnapped children as deductions. Though one has to sympathize with parents who are actually in this situation (which is very rarely, I assume), I can't help but feel ashamed that our IRS has contemplated this issue to such depths."
Can I still write off a child as a deduction if they've been kidnapped?

According to the IRS website, the answer is "yes," if two conditions are met:

1. The child must be presumed by law enforcement to have been kidnapped by someone who is not a member of your family or a member of the child's family, and

2. The child had, for the taxable year in which the kidnapping occurred, the same principal place of abode as the taxpayer for more than one-half of the portion of such year before the date of kidnapping.

Tax Advice from the Prestigious Internet (Thanks, Smith!)

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  1. “The child must be presumed by law enforcement to have been kidnapped by someone who is not a member of your family or a member of the child’s family”

    So parental abduction doesn’t qualify even though it’s the most common form of child kidnapping? That makes a lot of sense.

  2. What if you marry your own daughter and then she gets kidnapped? Can you claim the double deduction? Depending on the laws in your area, that could be the most profitable 1-4 years of your life.

    And yes, I know this is all sorts of wrong. Thank you. Move along.

  3. So… if you had to pay a ransom for said kidnapped child, could you claim it as a living (business?) expense?

  4. Why ashamed? This was probably determined on a case-law basis — it happened, someone asked for a ruling, someone tried to come up with a vaguely reasonable answer.

    I’m far more ashamed that homo sap engages in kidnapping in the first place.

  5. “The child had, for the taxable year in which the kidnapping occurred, the same principal place of abode as the taxpayer for more than one-half of the portion of such year before the date of kidnapping.”

    ‘Ang on, if the child is kidnapped for even one day more than half the year, then, he/she is not deductible? But, in the convoluted logic of IRS case law, *someone* is due the deduction, so I presume it is the kidnappers? What about child care credits, who gets those?

  6. It’s not so weird that it’s in the IRS code. Generally these kinds of clauses are there because of precedent. The law wasn’t there, then someone’s kid got kidnapped and the parent still claimed a deduction and the IRS had to decide whether to allow it. After the decision, it got written into the code.

  7. #5 it’s convoluted, but not talking about the whole year, just the portion of the year prior to the kidnapping…so if a kid gets kidnapped on Feb 1st, they have to have lived with the parent claiming the deduction for more than 16 days. I guess it’s part and parcel of the bit of tax law that figures out which divorced parent gets to deduct the little one in the first place.

  8. How about that delicate time in between kidnapping someone and waiting for the ransom to come through? The kidnappee would basically be in the care of the kidnapper, and I’m quite certain he or she would be unable to work, not to mention requiring lots of attention… could this person be written off as a dependent?

    And can I double the write off on any costs involved with the kidnapping by also counting them as work related?

  9. Yes, can you write off as a dependent the child you’ve kidnapped?

    I’m, uh, asking for a friend…

    #10: I think the applicable rule would be that someone making more than $3500 in that year can’t be claimed, so even if they only made $4000 in january and then were kidnapped, they couldn’t be a dependent.

  10. #4 has it right – this stuff isn’t written into the guidelines out of nowhere. When you find something like this it’s usually because the event detailed actually happened and a court handed down a ruling.

  11. you bastards.

    nothing less than the worst of everything.

    how could you ?

    or rather, how could i be surprised ?

  12. “So parental abduction doesn’t qualify even though it’s the most common form of child kidnapping? That makes a lot of sense.”

    Absolutely– presumably the kidnapping parent would be the one who would take the deduction for the kid. I’m guessing the parents would not be filing jointly…

  13. Even better, you can continue to receive AFDC and Food Stamps for them until they find the corpse. I know this from work (not personal experience).

  14. Even better, you can continue to receive AFDC and Food Stamps for them until they find the corpse.

    …and thankyou ladies and gentlemen, this brings us to the rock bottom of this thread. I hope you’ve enjoyed your journey, and wish you a pleasant time during the remainder of your stay here.

  15. what if someone murdered someone? we should be ashamed that society has rules to work around very unfortunate situations.

  16. so wait… your telling me a could have claimed back tax for the cellar rent, food rations, security shackles, blind fold hood, voice changer device and fuel for the get-away van?

  17. #12, I’d had the same thought (can the kidnapper deduct the child)? According to the IRS, though, “to be a taxpayer’s qualifying child,” there must be a “relationship” – the child must be “the taxpayer’s child or stepchild (whether by blood or adoption), foster child, sibling or stepsibling, or a descendant of one of these.” In non-family-kidnapping cases, the kidnapper can’t claim the deduction without also engaging in tax fraud.

    The sad thing is that the first test in the original post is “The child must be presumed by law enforcement to have been kidnapped by someone who is not a member of your family or a member of the child’s family.” I’m guessing that’s to prevent gaming of the system. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, though, says that something like 75% of children abducted in the US are taken by “family members”. In most cases this rule applies, then, it goes like this:

    1) Custody-losing ex-spouse kidnaps kid
    2) Custodial parent reports to police
    3) Police classify it as a “family kidnapping”
    4) Custodial parent no longer gets to see child, at all, and has the extra insult of not being able to deduct the kid on that year’s taxes because the crime was performed by a “member of the child’s family.”

    Not only that, this isn’t that esoteric, there are something like 200,000 family-member kidnappings a year. Presumably, a noticeable number of them aren’t resolved before taxes are filed, the next tax.

    I’m guessing if your hated ex-spouse stole your kid, you probably aren’t all that worried, in the grand scheme of things, about losing the tax deduction, but it’s still pretty crummy.

  18. On the other hand, if your child is kidnapped, you aren’t providing support for them anymore, so it doesn’t really make any sense to tax you like you are still supporting them.

    As far as finding expenses, it seems that a non-profit foundation would be the way to go- would make fund raising easier and more transparent as well.

  19. The sad thing is that the situation exists frequently enough that someone had to even think about this for more than five minutes.

    I’m sure the parents of any kidnapped child would give up the exemption (as well as a limb and/or major internal organ) in a heartbeat to have their kid back, safe and sound.

    The other pretty uncomfortable point? If, as The Quark at #25 claims, that 200,000 family abductions are made every year…and that 75% of abductions are done by family, some elementary-level algebra returns that there are between 65,000 and 70,000 non-family abductions every year — so the IRS code could apply to some 65,000 filers every…fucking…year.

    THAT is the scary and sad statement — that there are that many sick bastards taking someone else’s kid every year.

  20. In Germany bribes are tax-deductible. Or at least they used to be; there was some talk about changing that, but I don’t think it got through.

    Of course a German civil servant is supposedly totally incorruptable und unbribable, but, you know, if did manage to corrupt and bribe one (which, of course, is absolutely unthinkable), you could write it off.

  21. @sf, presumably these would be deducted when you declare the ransom as income.

    In practice, that would mean that the authorities get you for tax evasion as well as (or rather than) kidnapping. Depending on the situation, they might find it easier to make tax evasion stick; it’s happened before (see: Al Capone).

  22. @24: “what if someone murdered someone? we should be ashamed that society has rules to work around very unfortunate situations.”

    No, we should be glad that society has rules for working around unfortunate situations. Imagine if, on top of the incomprehensible horror of having your child kidnapped, you had to deal with an IRS auditor to figure out what the tax issues would be.

    I’m not quite sure what your murder question means, but it’s an established principle of law and equity that a murderer can’t gain from the murder; for example, if the beneficiary of someone’s will kills that person, they won’t be premitted to receive whatever was left to them.

  23. #27 that sarcasm went way over your head. i thought my example was ludicrous enough to get that across.

  24. In 2002 (do the math), there was a section in the tax guide explaining how victims of terrorism could be “forgiven” their tax liabilities (and yes, “forgiven” was the word used, which struck me as curious).

  25. I think what’s going on with the custodial kidnappings it that the kidnapper is now in a position to claim the deduction and thus the custodial parent loses it.

  26. What about children that you’ve kidnapped yourself? Are those tax deductible?

    *points* I do not have any kidnapped children. I’m just curious.

  27. #25 @anonymous — “Kidnapped child” is, unfortunately, not that uncommon of a category. My wife, when she was a child, was kidnapped by her mom after a messy divorce. She and her mom spent at least a year essentially in hiding, in another town, until the custody was settled more equitably.

  28. TRIESQUID,

    You could probably claim your expenses as work related, but you’d need to itemize and typically they are so negligible as to make it not worth the time:

    -Maintenance on disused well
    -Cost of hose
    -Water costs
    -Cost of bucket
    -Cost of lotion
    etc.

    (Yes I am a terrible person)

  29. What an emotional catch-22 to be in: if you write them off you are assuming they are still alive, but then the IRS might come down on you, and if you don’t write them off, it’s like you are assuming they are dead, (and so have “written them off”, so to speak.)

  30. Unanimous Cowherd@34:

    “Kidnapped by her mom” would be a familial abduction — thus not subject to the IRS ruling, and not part of the 65,000 random kidnappings if the numbers quoted are correct.

    Just as nightmarish for everyone, though.

  31. Okay… this just makes me want to stick my head in the oven, as it’s the only sure-fire method available for getting the hell out of this horrible, disgusting perversion of a “civilization” we’ve allowed the U.S. to morph itself into. We are lost, lost, lost. I want off of this F’d up bus.

  32. Domeier: Yeah, come to the UK. We have great posters, and CCTV, so I guess nobody ever gets kidnapped here. Right? I know I must be.

    Incidentally, speaking of gaming the system… is it possible to LEGALLY kidnap children? ‘Cos, if so, I could totally see a market niche for childminder/kidnappers, nanny/kidnappers, etc: in their role as kidnapper, they’d be helping to pay for their wages as childminder/nanny!

    Does a kidnap still count as a kidnap when the kidnapper is made the legal carer of the child after the fact?

    If so, it’s a shame about the 6 month rule, or two people could pass the kid back and forth via kidnapping, then transfer ownership. Scammer1 would still have the child “missing due to kidnap”, scammer 2 would be legally in the clear.

    Somehow, though, I can’t see the law being that dumb.

  33. I think we need to be forward-thinking about these issues.

    What are the implications of this for tax planning?

  34. Probably some other section of the code says that a kidnapper can only claim a deduction if their victim is a family member, since the victim’s legal parents/guardians apparently can’t take the deduction in that case.

  35. If your child is not kidnapped, but is temporarily not living at home, are you allowed to still claim the deduction? I’m thinking prison.

  36. So you think if a person (parent) kidnaps a child they shouldn’t get the money…I say if it is my child give it to them…Give them as much as they need…It is not sure but the more money they have the better they can care for my child until I get there.

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