Canada Revenue Agency monitoring Facebook, Twitter posts of some Canadians

The Canada Revenue Agency is monitoring the social media posts of Canadians it suspects are cheating on their taxes.

The Canada Revenue Agency is scrutinizing the Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other social media posts of Canadians it suspects could be cheating on their taxes.

That's just one example of the agency's increasing focus on what it can learn by collecting and analyzing many kinds of data — both its own internally generated information and what it calls "publicly available information."

"The CRA does practice risk-based compliance, so for taxpayers identified as high risk, any relevant, publicly available information relating to the specific risk-based factors for the taxpayer may be consulted as part of our fact-gathering processes," said spokesperson David Walters.

Among those considered high risk are wealthy Canadians with offshore bank accounts, said Jean-François Ruel, director of CRA's Strategy and Integration Branch.

"If we go with high-risk, high-wealth individuals that do offshore [banking], then we would look at all information that is public for compliance action."

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However, David Christopher, of the advocacy group Open Media, said his organization opposes government agencies monitoring what Canadians are saying on social media.

"When Canadians post something on Facebook, they believe that they are sharing that with their friends and with their family. They don't believe that they are sharing that with some government bureaucrat in Ottawa," he said.

"Unfortunately, Facebook's privacy settings are notoriously complex and many people might think that they are posting something to their friends and it ends up getting shared with the whole world."

The revelation that the Canada Revenue Agency is checking social media posts comes as the agency is also expanding its use of cutting-edge technology and data analysis to better catch tax cheats, to target people for audits and to improve its service for Canadians.
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Image: (Paul Sakuma/Associated Press)

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