ST. LOUIS (AP) — The state of Missouri continues to issue more tax deductions to families claiming a stillborn child than the number of such deaths reported in 2016, according to a newspaper analysis.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports a review of state tax records and public health figures found the Missouri Department of Revenue issued deductions to 1,044 families for a stillborn child in 2016, a year when the Department of Health and Senior Services received official reports of 467 stillborn children.

In 2017, the state issued 506 deductions, while the health department recorded 436 stillbirths.

The new numbers come after the newspaper found the deduction had been used by 1,400 families in 2015, when the law first took effect. The health department recorded 460 fetal deaths that year.

Department of Revenue spokeswoman Anne Marie Moy said the agency reviews a portion of all returns, including those claiming the stillborn deduction.

"We routinely ask for additional documentation to support various items reported on returns, but there is a balancing act between validating data reported on returns and becoming a burden to good taxpayers," she said.

The exemption was sponsored in 2015 by Sen. Ed Emery, whose wife had three miscarriages.

Emery, R-Lamar, said the disparity between deductions and reporter stillbirths is difficult to explain but one explanation might be unsuccessful home births that don't get reported to the state.

He said he doesn't believe many of the claimed deductions are attempted fraud.

"It's a very sensitive area," he said. "This is not something that people are likely to make up."

The law, which drew bipartisan support, allows a one-time exemption of $1,200 from a parent's income — the same amount taxpayers can claim for each dependent on tax returns.

Under Missouri law, a parent can apply for a certificate of birth resulting in a stillbirth after 20 weeks of pregnancy or if the fetus reaches a certain weight. A fetus' death before 20 weeks is generally considered a miscarriage.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com