IRS Tracking Americans' Online Activities

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The Internal Revenue Service is using its computers to track online activities of Americans as it tries to find tax cheats.

The IRS has massively upgraded its computing power in recent years. US News and World Report reports the tax agency is putting together a huge amount of personal information on taxpayers.

Drawing from eBay auctions, Facebook posts, credit cards, electric payments, individual Internet addresses, and emailing patterns they hope to assist Washington with budget challenges by chasing down an estimated $300 billion in yearly revenue lost to evasions and errors.

The IRS will then compare the information they gather with people's tax returns. But the potential for surveillance has some people worried. Critics say the IRS has revealed little about how it will employ the new "robo-audits."

"I am sure people will be concerned about the use of personal information on databases in government, and those concerns are well taken," one tax law expert from Yale told US News. "It's appropriate to watch it carefully. There should be safeguards."

He added that taxpayers should be informed that IRS enforcement practices will allow whatever they say or do electronically to be held against them.

"Private industry would be envious if they knew what our models are," IRS high-tech top gun Dean Silverman boasted in a comment reported in trade publications.

Agency officials have already used a profiling test model to study 1,500 tax preparers with delinquency histories and recovered $200 million, citing the test as proof that its networking scanning and analysis works.

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