Watch out! That new Facebook friend could be anything but as we approach the end of the tax year.
The Australian Tax Office is stepping up its campaign to crack down on tax cheats – by watching Facebook posts and private school records.
So that happy snap of your new Ferrari, the kids at private school or your new house extension could cost a lot more a few likes from your friends.
The campaign netted nearly $10 billion last year.
What the tax snoops are looking for is anything which contradicts your tax returns. Posting what look like holiday snaps when you’re supposed to be on a business trip, for instance.
ATO Commissioner Chris Jordan said the tax office uses data collection analysis of social media platforms such as Facebook to check whether people’s declared income matches their lifestyles.
The crackdown has netted dozens of people using undeclared foreign income to pay private school fees or overseas travel.
“It’s a reality of the age we live in that there is more and more information publicly available, particularly through social media,’ Mr Jordan told The Australian.
“We only go looking when something just doesn’t add up.’’
The ATO also collects information from both public and private sources including motor registries, the stock exchange and online selling platforms. Banks, employers, health insurers are obliged to report information to the taxman.
Last year, the ATO wrote to 60 private schools seeking the source of payment for school fees and identified 100 families using undeclared offshore accounts.
Mr Jordan gave an example of a family where the husband who ran a business reported $80,000 in taxable income and his wife earned $60,000.
Data matching revealed the family had three children in private schools at an estimated cost of $75,000.
Meanwhile, immigration records and social media posts showed the family had recently taken five business-class flights for a holiday at the Canadian ski resort of Whistler.
“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 at a ski holiday in Whistler, this will prompt us to contact them and ask more questions,’’ he said.
The ATO prosecuted more than 1300 individuals and 400 companies for offences ranging from noncompliance with lodgement obligations to making false or misleading claims and keeping false records.