If you’re not paying your taxes, know this: The taxman could be Facebook-stalking you. Literally reading your profiles on Facebook, MySpace and other social networking websites in order to track you down, and get you to pay up. According to The Wall Street Journal, the search for tax dodgers starts with bank records, employment and tax records, motor vehicle files, and local newspaper articles. Then, if agents can’t find you, they turn to Google, social networking sites and chat rooms, where they search for clues like business addresses, relocation announcements, and references to money. It’s helping them get back taxes.
For example, Minnesota authorities found a long-time tax evader because he boasted on MySpace about his new job as a real estate broker. They were able to put a hold on his salary until he paid up. Also, tax agents in Nebraska collected $2,000 from a deejay who announced on Facebook that he’d been hired for a big, public party. In California, a collection agent found a tax evader who had supposedly closed his sailboat business. However, someone in a boating chat room mentioned that he’d simply moved to another town.
Of course, in most states, tax agents can’t lie about their identity to “friend” you on Facebook, and they can only use information that’s available to the public online. So, unless your privacy settings keep strangers from viewing your social networking profiles, the taxman can see and use everything you post. Also, if you plan to plead poverty and negotiate a tax payment plan with the government, know this: Tax agents will check your company’s website! They’ve caught people who weren’t telling the truth. For example, a spray-tan business mentioned in the Journal article claimed they had no cash, and wanted to pay their tax bill in installments. However, their website boasted that they had provided tans for every participant in a giant body-building contest. The result: The government got a check for all the taxes owed.