Taxman plans to watch social media activity

Officials in France could start watching social media sites in search of evidence of potential fraud as early as the beginning of 2019

Tax officials are planning to monitor social media accounts in a crackdown on fraud, Minister of Public Action and Accounts Gérald Darmanin has revealed.

In an interview with M6's Capital programme, Mr Darmanin said authorities would experiment with examining taxpayers' publicly available social media accounts, "probably at the beginning of next year".

He suggested that several images of a person with a luxury car they should not be able to afford may offer evidence of fraudulent activity that required closer investigation.

"We have all known people who say: 'Look, it's not normal, there are people who earn very little and have a lifestyle that is far superior to their incomes,'" he said.

The Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés (CNIL) has yet to give the green light for the plan, but social networks are already used to help build cases in some criminal investigations.

The level to which social media will be monitored has not yet been publicly defined. But the Direction générale des finances publiques (DGFIP) already has access to data, including bank accounts, phone numbers and invoices.

It is intended that blind data mining will be used to flag possible cases of fraud that will be further investigated by data scientists before being passed on to tax administration officials.

Currently, one in four audits results in unpaid taxes being recovered.

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