Social media can get a pretty bad reputation, but it has helped us connect with family and friends in faraway places, learn new skills and recipes, and get up-to-date information about important events and breaking news. The IRS would also agree that social media can be a good thing, mostly in that it helps them conduct audits and substantiate major tax fraud cases with its digital footprints. There have been a lot of rumors about the extent of the IRS’ use of social media in their enforcement of issues like tax evasion and money laundering so let’s find out the truth. Can your social media be used against you by the IRS?

In short, yes the IRS can use your social media and has utilized this information in cases previously. However, they can only view public, easily accessible accounts that anyone could see with a simple Google search. This means, to the general public’s knowledge, there is no Gen Z intern creating the elaborate fake instagrams typically used for spying on ex-boyfriends to follow your private account and screenshot your Instagram stories. There have been many conspiracy theories that the IRS has a sophisticated algorithm that can scan the databases of major social media platforms to mine information about taxpayers but the IRS has refuted this and stated that they only use publicly accessible information to “assist with already existing compliance work.”

With the recent digitization efforts underway at the IRS and the advent of AI, it’s possible that social media could play a larger role in the future. The IRS has already used social media as a tool to investigate and prosecute everyone from Nigerian scammers to OnlyFans creators. The highly publicized trial of a billionaire who claimed he moved from DC to Florida to save on income taxes and then was prosecuted for over $150M in back taxes after social media posts helped state tax authorities to determine that his primary residence was in fact DC has brought this issue further into the light.

How can this affect small business owners? If you are, for example, writing off travel expenses as a business trip, and posting photos of you partying and dining with friends on your public Facebook or Instagram, the IRS can see that. Social media can be a field mine for business controversy as well as IRS auditing and scammers looking to find pertinent information to leverage so be aware of what both you AND your employees are posting on social media in regards to your business. If you have any questions about auditing or any other tax issues, feel free to contact a member of our team today!