Australian Tax Office using social media to find tax cheats

Added On November 14, 2016

CANBERRA, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- Australian authorities are trawling through Facebook and other social media to identify and prosecute tax cheats.
Chris Jordan, Commissioner of the Australian Tax Office (ATO), said his organization had invested in data collection analysis of social media platforms to find cases of people's declared incomes not matching their lifestyles as part of a multi-faceted crackdown.
The social media posts, in addition to private school records and immigration data, have unveiled dozens of cases of undeclared foreign income being used to pay private school fees or for overseas holidays, netting the ATO 7.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2015.
"It's also a reality of the age we live in that there is more and more information publicly available, particularly through social media," Jordan said on Monday.
"Of course, we'll never go looking for this information where people are doing the right thing and are open with us. We only go looking when something just doesn't add up."
The ATO said that the gap between the tax that would be paid if all income was declared and the actual amount collected was 141.3 billion U.S. dollars in the financial year ending in 2016.
"Lots of little amounts add up to a lot," Jordan told News Limited.
"We need to continue to support those who do the right thing, and identify and take action against those who choose not to."
Jordan gave an example of a married couple who declared total income of 105,000 U.S. dollars for the year but had three children at private schools at an estimated total annual cost of 56,000 U.S. dollars and had recently purchased five business-class flights for a holiday to the Whistler ski resort in Canada.
"If our intelligence from immigration shows that the family of five flew business class three times in the last few years, and their social media posts show photos of the family on a ski holiday in Whistler, this will prompt us to contact them to ask more questions," Jordan said.
"People say 'well how do you know about that?' They can't dispute it because the kids are at that school and a lot of it is public information."