Published April 09, 2013
If you are late filing your taxes or owe Uncle Sam money, you better think twice about what you post online. According to a news report, the IRS is using social media outlets to track potential tax cheats.
According to RT.com, the IRS will begin checking taxpayers’ Facebook and Twitter pages to glean any information that might lead to an audit.
However, the IRS has denied the report. In a email statement to FOXBusiness.com, the agency said, “Suggestions that the IRS is using social media to target taxpayers for audit are wrong. Audits are based on the information contained on a person’s tax return, not a posting on a social media site.”
The RT reports the IRS will only probe online profiles of filers who are “flagged” for an audit to get more information. As shady as it might seem, it might be perfectly legal, according to FOX News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano.
“If you claim a deduction on your income tax returns, but the lifestyle you lead has manifested in social media that is inconsistent with that deduction, that would be a red flag and it would cause the IRS to dig a little deeper,” Napolitano told Stuart Varney Tuesday on Varney & Co.
Postings on social media are public, so the government doesn’t need a search warrant to troll your page, he adds. “As offensive as it is morally to have the government looking over your shoulder because of what you’re typing, what you are typing becomes public for the government to look at.”
The IRS spokesperson told FBN that “respecting taxpayer rights forms a central part of all of our enforcement efforts, and that includes instances where we monitor publicly available information to assist with already existing compliance work.”
Social media has become a hotbed for data mining going beyond advertisers and marketers. Just last week, New York law enforcement officials indicted 63 East Harlem gang members after using their social media profiles to connect them to crimes.
Adam Levin, chairman of Identity Theft 911, says our culture is one that compulsively over-shares, so it’s no surprise the IRS would take to social media to look for clues as to what taxpayers may be up to.
“When you over share things, you run the risk that government agencies will take it the wrong way—or maybe the right way [if the audit is justified].”
Taxpayers should also be aware of what others are posting about them on social media, Levin says.
“Things that are being posted may come back to haunt you on your tax returns.”