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The IRS Wants to Investigate Tax Dodgers via Social Media

The Internet Revenue Service (IRS) is looking to get its hands on a product that will help its agents investigate tax dodgers who’ve set up shop on social media, according to a request posted to the federal government’s procurement website, FedBizOpps.

The post indicates that the IRS, whose under-equipped enforcement agents ferret out financial crime related to the tax system, is looking for a new way to investigate potential tax cheats based on their social media usage, citing as one example the ubiquity of online stores. The IRS currently has no “formal tool,” it says, to comb through social media feeds. It also says that its agents are currently largely prohibited from viewing or accessing “publicly available information on social media sites.”

Quartz, which first spotted the request, noted the agency has long been suspected of mining social media data.

“Businesses and individuals increasingly use social media to advertise, promote, and sell products and services,” says the request, filed by the IRS’s national procurement office. “For example, taxpayers can create ‘online stores’ on social networking sites free of cost. Much of this information is unrestricted, allowing the public, businesses and various governmental agencies to discover taxpayers’ locations and income sources.”

The request also strives to differentiate between what the agency says it needs such a tool for and more overtly dubious uses, such as the online surveillance of taxpayers. The agency says if it does move forward and adopt a new tool for combing sites like Facebook or Twitter, it would not be used to cultivate new auditing leads (emphasis ours):