Use of social media can open you up to a Tax Audit

Posting images and content online showing your latest holiday or purchase seemed like a good idea at the time! Just remember who might be looking at your social media as well.

The ATO has always looked at different ways to data match what taxpayers declare in their tax returns against information available from other sources. In the past they have accessed databases from other statutory bodies and private entities (including stamp duty, real estate, ebay and asset records) to check what assets taxpayers have and what have been purchased and sold. If the assets held or purchased are not supported by the level of income declared in the taxpayer’s tax return in a particular year the ATO may ask some questions and instigate audit activity.

Now the ATO has taken the next step and employed an internal team to review taxpayers’ social media pages to data match with their tax returns to determine whether the income and assets disclosed in their tax returns correspond with the lifestyle or assets shown in their social media. Examples of areas that the ATO may have an interest in are as follows

  • Is there a website on business facebook page for a business that is not being declared in your returns?
  • Does your disclosed taxable income support what you are doing and what you are spending? Large overseas holidays shown on your social media, sending kids to private schools and showing properties in your social media posts may attract ATO attention when comparing to income levels disclosed in your returns.
  • Are you claiming expenses that may not be legitimate and posts on your social media may catch you out? Travel trips claimed as business that are posted as holiday jaunts or the like can open up an enquiry from the ATO.

So what is the moral to the story? Obviously ensure your tax affairs are kept clean and so you don’t have anything to worry about with any of the above issues.  More importantly, ensure what you post in the public domain reflects what your situation actually is. While that post to get some likes and make your friends jealous may seem like a good idea at the time, if it is not reality, and not easily supported by what you are disclosing to the ATO elsewhere, then you are asking for trouble.