Specifically: 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:
- 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
- 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.
So, if your child has not been kidnapped by a family member (this excludes most kidnappings, by the way*), and spent more than half of the tax-year, pre-kidnapping, living with you, they are considered for tax purposes a dependent.
As an example, take a hypothetical kidnapping on March 1, 1932. If the missing child had spent 30 or more days of the year leading up to March 1 (1932 being a leap year) in his parents' principle abode, they could write him off for the entire 1932 tax year. Just as a hypothetical.
The IRS also says you can continue to count the missing child as a dependent until they are determined to be dead, or it reaches the year they would have reached 18.
*According the to FBI, in 2007 only 15% of kidnappings were by strangers. The rest were by "non-custodial parents." Let that be a lesson to you: You are much safer with strangers than you are with your family.