March 2, 2021

The «big data» at the service of the fight against fraud


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The Tax agency it is undoubtedly the most digitized public administration. It was the first to use new information technologies to collect data on taxpayers’ income and also to facilitate compliance with tax obligations. Those of us who are already a few years old still remember those spring afternoons in which after collecting the income certificates of the company, the bank … and with a calculator in hand, we were preparing to fill out the complicated forms of the income statement. Today that seems prehistory. Hacienda knows everything or almost everything about us and in most cases a computer click is enough to fulfill our obligations. But it also has more and more tools to fight fraud. The last one he just announced is the use of «big data» to verify fictitious changes of residence for the sole purpose of paying less tax.

It is a bit scary to think that the Treasury knows everything or almost everything about us, but the truth is that digitization makes us leave more and more traces of what we do, where we are from, where we spend our money … and logically the Tax Agency will be very useful to tighten the fence to those who want to hide income to pay less or those who try to simulate the change of tax residence to contribute where taxes are lowest. And let’s not kid ourselves, it is also good news for taxpayers who faithfully comply with our tax obligations, because the more fraud is detected, the more public resources there will be to pay for services or to distribute the heavy tax burden among more, which would increase the tax pressure, but reduce the taxes that we each pay individually.

But let’s dig a little deeper into how the Tax Agency uses this “big data”. According to the Tax Control Plan for 2021, a census of potential residents will be established, who now say they are outside of Spain, with tax information of all kinds (provided by those affected themselves or by third parties) and information obtained by the Tax Agency of other States or other public institutions, as well as open sources such as social networks. By crossing all this data The Treasury will be able to practically reconstruct the history of the time that these people have remained in Spain and if it is more than 183 days, they will have to pay here. Because of course anyone can move their residence, for whatever reasons they want, such as the now famous youtuber ElRubius and boast about it, but they cannot continue to enjoy the benefits of living in Spain. If you go, you go with all the consequences.

I am very afraid that ElRubius, and all these influencers, but also athletes, singers, actors … who have crossed our borders, or have said that they have crossed them, to pay a little or a lot less, will be part of this group by that the Tax Agency is going to hot on your heels. Hacienda tells that they have used advanced techniques of “big data”, with the combination of more than 70 data sources to select the group. It does not clarify what type of sources he uses, but it is enough to have seen a few crime series to realize that what seemed to us science fiction is now a reality: where have you used your credit card, from where have you uploaded your photos on social networks, which ATMs have you withdrawn money from …

It is clear that the Tax Agency is at the forefront of digitization in the Spanish Administration, but it also resists the international comparison. It is clear that different governments have been interested in focusing on the use of new technologies in the Tax Administration Because that has allowed them a better fight against fraud and obtaining more income, the problem is that other administrations are almost digitally illiterate. One of the most backward is Justice, but the Public Employment Service is not much better. And if not, tell it to the thousands of workers at ERTE.

Yolanda Gómez RojoYolanda Gómez RojoDeputy directorYolanda Gómez Rojo

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