March 22, 2013 file photo, the exterior of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington. The IRS website to make payments went down on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. The IRS did not have an immediate explanation for the failure. But it said on its website that its online payment system became unavailable at 2:50 A.M. ET on Tuesday.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may soon begin using a software product to investigate tax dodgers on social media.

The IRS posted on the federal government’s procurement website, FedBizOpps, which confirmed the scouting of the product that would allow tax dodgers to be investigated on social media.

The IRS currently contends that IRS agents do not have the tools necessary to investigate suspected tax dodgers. The software would allow agents to use online stores to comb through social media feeds.

Under current rule, agents are not permitted to view or access “publicly available information on social media sites.” But this new program would change the game, despite claims by critics that the IRS is already using social media to conduct investigations.

“Businesses and individuals increasingly use social media to advertise, promote, and sell products and services,” says the IRS request on the national procurement office. “For example, taxpayers can create ‘online stores’ on social networking sites free of cost. Much of this information is unrestricted, allowing the public, businesses and various governmental agencies to discover taxpayers’ locations and income sources.”

According to GizModo, the IRS “request also strives to differentiate between what the agency says it needs such a tool for and more overtly dubious uses, such as the online surveillance of taxpayers. The agency says if it does move forward and adopt a new tool for combing sites like Facebook or Twitter, it would not be used to cultivate new auditing leads:

The IRS emphasizes that this tool, if the agency decides to pursue the use of it, would be done to assist with previously identified tax compliance cases. The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and such a tool would not be used to search the internet or social media sites for purposes of identifying or initiating new tax audits.

The IRS has not commented on the move due to the government shutdown.

 

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