According to a prominent international news outlet, the Internal Revenue Service is slated to begin using social networking services to find and track individuals suspected of cheating on their taxes. A taxpayer found to have submitted an inaccurate or fraudulent return can face heavy penalties from the IRS, such as fines or even an audit fraud case.
The IRS has denied these allegations, arguing that it only targets taxpayers for audits based on their data listed on their tax returns.
Regardless of whether the IRS is indeed looking at Texas taxpayers’ Facebook profiles and Twitter posts for information, experts say the practice may be completely legal. One judicial analyst and former judge explained that an individual whose social media suggests a lifestyle that is inconsistent with the figures claimed on his or her income tax returns could find themselves at the center of an audit.
Information posted on such sites is considered public, meaning that auditors do not need to obtain a warrant before looking for clues of suspected tax fraud. According to the report, the IRS will begin locating online profiles for taxpayers already flagged for audits, scanning these pages for any data that might give them more insight into those individuals’ cases. While these claims have yet to be corroborated by another news source, some experts say it would not be surprising to see the tax agency resort to such tactics.
The head of Identify Theft 911, an identity protection and data management service, said that many Americans have learned to routinely and compulsively share excessive personal information with their online friends.
While the issue of the IRS using social media to obtain information about a taxpayer is controversial, taxpayers do have rights, such as the right to obtain legal representation in an audit process or any litigation that might result from it. In the meantime, people may want to think twice about how much information they want to share on social media sites.
Source: Fox Business, “Is the IRS Stalking You on Social Media?,” Kate Rogers, April 9, 2013