12 November 2018

France to stalk social media to tackle tax avoiders

Lifestyle social media will be analysed by tax authorities in the new year as French lawyers brace themselves for more tax prosecutions.

French tax authorities are set to start stalking social media accounts in early 2019 as part of a pilot project in their battle against tax avoidance.

Targeting individuals

The budget minister Gerald Darmanin told weekly business television show Capital of the plans.  Mr Darmanin said fiscal authorities ‘will be able to see that if you have numerous pictures of yourself with a luxury car while you don’t have the means to own one, then maybe your cousin or your girlfriend has lent it to you... or maybe not.’ The pilot is part of a law France enacted last month designed to strengthen ability to fight tax fraud and permit a wider use of online data to enhance fiscal controls, and to begin targeting individuals in the digital space. Tax administrators will start looking to individuals’ social media content in early 2019 in order to identify potential cases of tax evasion. Mr Darmanin said, ‘the idea is to identify potential frauds by analyzing publicly-available data on individuals’ social media accounts.’

Broader crackdown

The French government has also announced plans to ‘name and shame’ people guilty of the worst cases of tax fraud as part of a broader crackdown on national tax evasion. The new measures include increasing penalties for tax evasion in France, raising the maximum penalty to two times the proceeds resulting from the fraud, and the creation of a new ‘fiscal police’ within the Budget Ministry, which will work with members of the Interior Ministry in the investigation of tax evasion cases. Layers in France are bracing themselves as the bill is likely to lead to substantially more tax fraud criminal prosecutions.