IRS might be watching your social media

Stan Ward

Stan Ward

April 18, 2014

If you’re reading this article and haven’t yet filed your taxes- you’re late! Hope you filed an extension. But even if you’ve complied with the law in submitting a return, you may find something else under investigation- namely your social media sites. Yes, the IRS is making an effort to plug the leak in the $300 billion hole which is estimated to be the amount the government is losing to tax cheats and non-filers. And it is going after peoples’ social media locations to glean information. In this era of tight money and even tighter government budgets the IRS is allocating precious manpower to data mining.

The hope is that the effort will be an intelligent allocation of resources and make up for fewer numbers of audited returns. There is a massive amount of information available to them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other sites. This is in addition to the voluminous traditional information to which they have access. That would include social security numbers, health records, banking information and property. This data crunching could provide them with mountains of evidence to use to catch those not in compliance.

According to the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communications Professor Joseph Turow, ’It seems they may be using predictive analytics. That takes a huge amount of data and puts it together in a big pot to see if they can predict which individuals don’t pay their taxes”. If it’s out there in the public domain it is fair game.

IRS intrusion used to apply also to emails and without getting a warrant. This is no longer the case regarding emails due to the hornet’s nest this practice stirred up in Washington. However, in the case of other private electronic communications, it is full speed ahead for the IRS.
If you dutifully file your tax returns in a timely manner and don’t fudge the numbers you should have nothing to worry about. But if you’re playing with fire you might want to take precautions with your social media activities. Big brother is watching you.

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