This newspaper, we’re proud to say, has led the fight against the scourge of sex trafficking in Texas and both encouraged and praised recent efforts by politicians and prosecutors to provide justice and healing for its victims.
Those efforts include, but are not limited to, Gov. Greg Abbott’s Feb. 20 announcement that he was introducing a customized clemency application “specifically for survivors of human trafficking or domestic violence.”
They also include recent efforts by law enforcement and prosecutors to not only shut down the sickening websites that advertise the sale of mostly young women and girls for sex, but to indict the owners of those websites and arrest them along with their traffickers and the “johns” who fuel the demand side.
One of the most effective tools a prosecutor can use to put traffickers out of business and support the healing and recovery of trafficking victims is financial restitution. Long a part of civil actions and other criminal convictions, restitution is increasingly being sought by prosecutors and awarded by judges hearing cases involving human trafficking. In June 2019, for example, a convicted sex trafficker in North Texas was sentenced to 11 years in prison and ordered to pay his 19-year-old victim, whom he began selling for sex in 2014, $332,990 in restitution.
The victim in that case, who was enslaved as a minor and sold for sex across the state of Texas for years, rightly didn’t have to pay federal income tax on that $332,990. But, incredibly, under current law, if that $332,990 had been awarded in a civil settlement, the victim would have had to pay federal income taxes on some, if not all, of the total amount.
That’s right. The trafficking victim would, in effect, have to foot the trafficker’s tax bill.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn thinks that ludicrous, and so do we. That’s why we’re urging Congress to pass his bill, the Human Trafficking Survivor Tax Relief Act, before the close of this session, and expect the president to sign it into law.
As Cornyn explained in January, when he introduced the bill with bipartisan support, this common-sense legislation would “allow survivors who go through civil proceedings to receive the same treatment as those compensated through the criminal justice system. The last thing survivors should expect is to get stuck with a bill from the IRS.”
We’d like to see movement on this bill. If there’s one thing our elected officials, regardless of party, should be able to agree on, it’s that the victims of human trafficking shouldn’t pay taxes on the money they were forced to earn for the monsters who enslaved them.
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