Before flaunting your Ferrari or Birkin on Facebook, read this

by Kathleen A. Martin, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Aug 07 2013 10:56 AM | Updated as of Aug 08 2013 05:12 PM

MANILA - Social media is changing the way the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) gets tips on alleged tax evaders as citizens now tap Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to send anonymous reports.

"Even without social media before, there will be people who write to us that say, for example, I have a neighbor who has 10 cars which are high-end... but he doesn't seem to be paying taxes. That has been happening in the past," BIR Commissioner Kim Henares told ANC's Headstart on Wednesday.

"But the thing now is it's more instant... Even with people they don't really know, when they see it on Facebook, they e-mail it to us... So social media [has become] another platform for lifestyle checking," she continued.

Henares said there is nothing wrong in posting a picture of your million-peso bag, your new Ferrari car, or of your recent trip to Europe. But she stressed Filipinos should be responsible in paying the right taxes for the items they are acquiring.

"There's nothing wrong to post pictures... It's not only our attention [you're attracting] but other people's attention, too. And they text us or call us saying, there's this person who flaunts this or that," Henares said.

The BIR has taken on an aggressive campaign against tax evaders in its bid to meet its collection targets and shore up revenues for the government.

Henares explained that the tax bureau does not differentiate between people--may they be doctors, lawyers, businessmen, or actors--found to have tax liability before the government.

"First, there has to be something that triggers our attention, then we investigate. Then based on the investigation and the data we receive and gather, that's when we decide whether to file a tax evasion case or just a deficiency," Henares said.

The trigger, she said, can easily be an expose on a person's wealth amassed on suspicious grounds, or when the BIR's data gathered through its "advanced" IT system show irregularities on someone's income tax filing.

In recent weeks, Filipinos on social media have expressed disappointment as social media accounts of the daughter of Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged brains behind the P10-billion pork barrel scam, showed photos of her Porsche car, luxury bags, and apparent shopping sprees abroad.

Henares recounted that the ongoing lifestyle on Napoles was not triggered by her daughter's photos on social media but by the earlier expose on the alleged pork barrel scam days earlier.

"For Janet Lim Napoles, the trigger was the expose. That triggered the need to investigate... But after that, there were a lot of other things that came out and that will necessitate us to look into it also," she said.