As ProPublica points out, despite the veritable explosion of stories about secret government surveillance programs, there’s a whole lot we still don’t know. We don’t know how long the government has been collecting our phone records or how much is collected. It would be nice to know what government officials think they can do under the Patriot Act, but….that information is classified.
We do know, though, as The Washington Post has been reporting (along with several other outlets), that the government has been engaged in internet data mining of video chats, emails, documents and photos, and is able to track when calls are made, from where, and for how long.
What does this have to do with taxes? Well…what if the data that one arm of government gathers up could be used by another arm…like the IRS?
There’s no evidence that anything like this is happening. But as UC Berkeley sociologist James B. Rules mused in The New York Times, “Imagine that analysis of telecommunications data reliably identified failure to report taxable income. Who could object to exploiting this unobtrusive investigative tool, if the payoff were a vast fiscal windfall and the elimination of tax evasion?”
Wow–there’s a nightmare for you. Do I think this is going to happen? No. But these kinds of questions just reinforce something that I and other tax pros always tell clients: Always keep track of everything that is going to be part of your tax return as if you are going to be audited. Hate to have to give you such a downer of a blogpost, but sometimes That’s The Way It Is.