The objective behind going through the social media accounts of suspected tax evaders is to serve notices for explanation to evaders who show no income and file zero or minimal return, yet spend lakhs of rupees on foreign travel.
“Now, when we get information about alleged tax evasion, rather than just going through their income related documents like credit card and savings bank details, we have also started going through the social media of the individuals concerned where the individual might have posted pictures of a new home, car, a cruise holiday etc., which he or she might not have declared in his return,” an official familiar with the development said.
‘Whenever there is a big difference between what they had filed earlier as their I-T return and what they have filed now, we check the social media accounts of these individuals’.
In 2015, the Central Board of Direct Taxes had issued a notification asking assessees to disclose details of their foreign travel and expenses incurred during the year. The assessees have to give details like their passport numbers, countries visited during the year, number of times visited and the expenses incurred on such travel.
According to the official, vetting of social media accounts of the alleged tax evaders helps the income tax officers in getting an idea about the real lifestyle of the income tax payer. “If his way of living is disproportionate to what he has been declaring in his return, a probe is initiated to find the truth about the evasion. Of course, it is not the only way to catch evaders,” the official added.
Officials have also identified the supposed “spenders” of their tax-circle who like spending money. “When there is a big difference between what they had filed earlier as their I-T return and what they have filed now, we check the social media accounts of these individuals to see whether they have hidden any holiday or any new car. The scanning of social media is just another method to prevent tax evasion,” a Bhopal-based official with the Income Tax department said.