If you don’t think what you post on social media matters, think again. France has announced that it will begin searching social media accounts next year in an effort to crack down on tax fraud.
Gerald Darmanin, France’s Minister of Action and Public Accounts, made the announcement as part of an interview he gave to the news show, Capital. The episode will be broadcast Sunday night on France’s national TV channel M6. An excerpt of the show (in French, d’accord) is available here.
According to Darmanin, the government plans to analyze data available on social media sites to determine whether certain taxpayers are living beyond their means. The government “will be able to see that if you have numerous pictures of yourself with a luxury car while you don’t have the means to own one, then maybe your cousin or your girlfriend has lent it to you… or maybe not,” says Darmanin. And yes, that’s all without a subpoena – remember, they’re looking at publicly available data.
Sound bizarre? It’s already happening in other countries, including the United States, albeit not in such an organized and public fashion. The government has long many tools, including social media, to investigate potential tax fraud. In one of the most infamous cases, Rashia Wilson of Tampa, Florida, famously bragged on Facebook while surrounded by piles of money:
I’m Rashia, the queen of IRS tax fraud. … I’m a millionaire for the record. So if you think that indicting me will be easy, it won’t. I promise you. I won’t do no time, dumb b———.
In fact, Rashia regularly bragged online about her crimes. At court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mandy Riedel actually read excerpts of Wilson’s Facebook page out loud in court as evidence. Wilson was sentenced to 21 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution (for more on the story, click here).
Analyzing taxpayers’ social media is just one of a number of ideas the French government is using to tackle tax fraud. The country is also creating a new “tax police force.” It’s all part of a new law passed just a few weeks ago that allows the French tax authorities more options in the fight against tax evasion.