Project Insight: Social Media Surveillance by Government of India over Tax Fraud

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For years the tax authorities in India have been working on systems to help identify those individuals who commit tax frauds or do not declare income truthfully. The tax department will soon rely on social media as another tool to look into the spending patterns of the users compared to their tax declaration. Seven years into making, Project Insight is all set to take things to the next level.

The next time you post images of your vacations or luxury purchases, make sure all your taxes are paid. Project Insight, along with AADHAAR is all set to become a major source of identifying tax defaulters in India. Starting in September, the government of India will begin relying on non-traditional sources such as Instagram and Facebook, along with traditional sources such as banks and tax declarations to identify tax fraud with Project Insight.

This Project Insight has been built for a cost of about INR 100 Crore, and will ensure more people pay taxes fairly. “Data analytics is the way forward for tax administrations across the world,” said Amit Maheshwari, managing partner at accountancy firm Ashok Maheshwary and Associates near New Delhi. “This will also put an end to harassment by tax officials as there will be no public interface. Perceived randomness in scrutiny will come to an end.”

The idea behind Project Insight is to create a bank of information about the residents of India. The system would mine and process the information, create individual spending profiles and match them with tax returns. It is a three phased system where the first phase is set to begin next month, the second in December and the third in May of next year. One could only hope that the data that is being mined and processed here will be secure. Leaks have been common in the Indian government’s systems and this sort of a leak would be quite a disaster.

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