Be careful about what you post online-French Tax Authorities Can Now Use Social Media Investigations

14 January 2020
A new year has just begun and the fight against tax evasion has taken another step. At the end of 2019, the French Constitutional Court granted powers to the country’s tax authorities to start using social media in its investigations.

A New Law in December

The Constitutional Court decision came in the wake of a government act in December 2019 permitting a three-year research programme. Now, the tax authorities can begin their investigation after getting the go ahead from the government and the court. It will spearhead their new tax evasion investigation drive. They expect to investigate:
  • People claiming a non-domicile status who regularly post photos of themselves at places in France or elsewhere they might be eligible to pay tax for residency
  • Looking at photos of property such as buildings owned and vehicles and tallying that up against declared income
  • Further, tax authorities can look at the purchases made on trading sites like Amazon and eBay, and its French equivalent Le Bon Coin


Not Everyone Agrees

Opposition groups in France expressed concern with civil rights and privacy. They reported the practice to the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés for review (CNIL). Once the law passed, opponents took it to the court. The Court ruled in early January that the tax authorities may go ahead with their surveillance operation. However, they passed down several restrictions in line with constitutional law.
  • They cannot gain access of password protected content – only that which is publicly available
  • In an investigation or prosecution, they may only use the information that the person under investigation provides or posts. Third party information is not eligible
  • Finally, the Court acknowledged the concerns of opponents and ruled that CNIL must monitor the collection and use of data. Finally, CNIL is required to submit a full report at the end of the three year trial period

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