It might sound far-fetched, but your social media accounts could just land you in trouble with the Australian Tax Office.
The ATO are always sharpening their data-gathering tools, and now they’re adding social media to the rich tapestry of information at their fingertips.
Translation: taxpayers could have their social media accounts monitored to see if claims are legitimate.
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“Things like private use of holiday rental properties, travel for work, claims for internet and phone – the ATO will turn to our social media accounts to see if what we share online corroborates our claims,” explains accountant Michelle Maynard.
For instance, the work-related business trip to Brisbane you claimed; the one where you posted photos of yourself with your friends having drinks at a bar? That claim could be denied.
Or what about those uniform allowances you’ve claimed for work? If you’re posting photos of yourself on the job and you’re clearly not wearing a uniform, you could find the ATO nixing those claims, too.
In the ominous words of Karen Foat from the ATO, the tax office is “always watching”.
“We have sophisticated data and analytics [and] we can spot claims that are out of pattern,” she says, adding that the ATO has no problem snooping our social media accounts to investigate claims.
It’s understandable, considering that Aussies claim deductions to the tune of $2bn every year – and that’s just in the “other” category.
Some dodgy claims over the years have included dental bills, Foat says, from a taxpayer who believed “a nice smile was essential to finding a job, and was therefore deductible. It isn’t and their claims were disallowed”.
“Another taxpayer claimed the Lego sets they bought as gifts for their children. Unsurprisingly, this claim was disallowed. Personal gifts don’t qualify, and it’s not okay to ask Australian taxpayers to subsidise presents,” Foat says.
Someone who has personally felt the wrath of the ATO is *Jay, who was recently slugged a $24,000 tax debt. In Jay’s case, his claims – which are related to self-education, for a pricey MBA – were completely legitimate, however the ATO took issue because he claimed them in the wrong year.
The bottom line for Jay? “I don’t have a massive problem; I’ve not done anything fraudulent. It’s just a pain and it’s been really difficult to sort out.”
To avoid the same pain, keep your claims reasonable when you fill out your tax return this year; you have until Halloween (October 31st) to lodge.