Is The IRS Guilty of Snooping Your Social Media Accounts?

Something that’s a well-known fact is that the IRS doesn’t give up very easily. Once they are on your case, they’re really on your case. With approximately $300 billion going unreported to the IRS each year, it seems to be fair game on their part. Garnished wages, extra fees, and even jail time are some of the consequences. So many Americans aren’t paying their taxes on their full income amount or aren’t claiming their tips or other sources of income. All it takes is one audit and they’ve got you, but sometimes they have to ‘catch you’ before they can catch you.

IRS

Photo: Lane V. Erickson / Shutterstock

Of course, the IRS can’t just audit everybody. It’s similar to a police officer being able to go into a home when they smell drugs or see paraphernalia from the front door. Those are the exceptions, while the majority of entrances are made with a search warrant. A “search warrant” in IRS terms is essentially an audit backed by evidence of tax evasion. So what would welcoming them in constitute as?

The hard part is that many people are paying their taxes and being as fair as possible. It’s a complicated process and some mistakes may be made, but rarely are they intentional. Tax specialists and tax software programs are often used to reduce the risk of errors as well.

So this is where the average person becomes a bit of a victim.

The IRS Does Monitor Social Media Activity

Okay, it has been public knowledge for a while that the government does spy on people. They do this through many different techniques. As social networking websites are the most direct, to-the-person, accounts that people can have on the Internet, it’s also no surprise that the government goes that way to exploit people’s privacy.

There is one other factor that many do not consider. The IRS is constantly having to find ways to cut corners to meet their continuously lowering budget. Less manpower is being used to spot inconsistencies and to perform audits. This doesn’t mean that it’s any easier to get away with tax evasion – it means that the IRS will just need to find a new approach.

That’s where an automated system, or bot, comes in. A bot can easily collect endless data from many different resources and pile it all together to then scan for problems based on specific parameters. A particular technique that is used within this approach is social media mining. The NSA also uses social media mining.

What’s the Harm in Social Media Mining?

Firstly, social media mining is the act of data mining one’s social media accounts. Think about everything that you put on your Facebook. If there’s nothing that can profile you on a financial level, then you’re the exception. For instance, many people post pictures from their vacations, brag about their brand new car, etc., but there’s no guarantee that these people file correctly. It just takes one person showing big money being thrown around with a tax filing that says that it doesn’t make sense and then an audit is fair game.

It’s not just about the IRS knowing that you have money and you know how to use it. Look at the relationship status feature on Facebook. Many couples claim that they’re single for tax purposes, especially when they have children, as it works out in their favor. If the IRS just creates a simple script that factors the names of the people in a relationship together, the date that the relationship started, and the relationship data from their tax filing, then they could end up with a pretty stack of candidates for auditing.

The Potential Effects of IRS Acting Like the NSA

The effects of the IRS using similar techniques to the NSA – and even getting assistance from the NSA – are crippling, yet the government doesn’t seem to realize it. This all falls in the same light as the entire situation surrounding around the NSA invading everyone’s privacy. The government is backing the methods of information collection by the IRS, just like it’s backing the techniques used by the NSA.

As an American, it can be troubling to know that your privacy is at risk. Sometimes your privacy can be invaded for good reason, but this is not always the case. Many people believe in their right to their own privacy, just as people stand by the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ approach. The government saying ‘anyone could be guilty’ and treating everyone like criminals only until proven innocent is not a very well ran government system.

This is just another bullet in the chamber of the gun that will ultimately be used during the suicide of the American government. These practices can only go on for so long before the effects are truly noticed. The US government is acting like a jealous boyfriend that snoops on his girlfriend’s phone.

Someday American citizens will realize that they shouldn’t have to sit in silence or feel the fear of facing the music. The day will come when praying on a change from the next president is the only real contingency plan left intact. It will be a bitter victory for the majority that were once proud to be American. All that can be hoped for now is that the government wakes up and realizes that just because effective spying tools are out there, it doesn’t mean that they need to use them.