Tuesday, February 16, 2010

ICT makes taxation easier

These days, the Internet and database technology seem to play a role in any specialized subject you happen to look into. Since 1st of February, I have been a full time intern in the Danish Parliament. Here, I do research, advice and ghost-write for the young up-and-coming MP Jesper Petersen. On top of being an energetic and sympathetic politician, he happens to be the political spokesperson on taxation for his party.

Digging into the charming field of taxes, excise and levies, I encountered a few examples of ICTs providing the taxation authorities a helping hand.

On the international level, rich people hiding their fortunes from their local authorities in countries like Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg is a hot issue right now. For many years proud (welfare) states of law have vainfully tried to get hold of these tax-money. Now stolen data start to emerge out of the secret money tanks, with e.g. the German government paying millions of euros for the information to cash in billions in unpaid taxes. As a German official said, information breach on this scale would never have been possible without digital database technology.

In a different, yet-to-be-up-scaled programme, the Danish tax authorities have been hugely succesful in using the internet to monitor sales activities of especially smaller online shops that does not regards themselves tax payers. As today's story in the Danish daily Børsen describes, this kind of small merchantship has moved from squares and market places to their online counter-parts, making tracking and surveillance much easier for the authorities.

While the Internet continues to organize the collective in new ways, to paraphrase Latour, it seems that the social state of law is starting to take advantage of the digitized playing field.

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