Tag Archives: websites

Tax Season 2018 – The IRS is Checking Your Facebook Page

There are lot of ways that the IRS can figure out your income. In addition to your W-2 and 1099 the IRS also receives information from your bank and other financial institutions and your credit card company. 

According to Debt.com if something is not adding up then your information gets red flagged by a system called the Information Returns Processing system (IRP). This massive database can review  and compare your reported income against information from other third party sources. If there is a discrepancy the IRS is alerted for further investigation. Every year the IRS estimates the U.S. government misses out on hundreds of billions of tax dollars due to unreported income. With advances in technology they hope to collect at least some of that missing tax revenue. But did you know they gather information from Facebook, Twitter and your email?

Uncle Sam is checking Facebook.

People who love to post personal information to Facebook or Tweet may want to pay attention. These are rich sources of information and the IRS knows it. With all those billions going uncollected every year the IRS has stepped up its game and is now checking your social media accounts.  

The IRS started checking Facebook and Twitter pages in 2013 in order to gather information that could support a taxpayer audit. The IRS initially denied these reports.

In an interview with Inc.com Kevin P. McQuillan of  The McQuillan Group said the IRS has been quiet about checking social media. “When the IRS first mentioned utilizing social media, it created quite a stir, and in response to that, they came out and were very specific to say that they weren’t going to use emails without some authorization. However, they didn’t say anything about social media. The IRS has always had access to public information, such as what car you own, or what house you live in. In the past auditors have used the audit process to decide what information they will look into on a particular case. However, given recent cuts to the agency and the decreased number of auditors, they are now coming to audits with this information in hand.”

The IRS is using your Facebook posts to determine if you are lying to them about income or tax issues. For example did a businessman write off a family vacation as a business trip? Or is an employer spending lavishly while claiming his business is currently unprofitable? Its called over sharing and people do it all the time. The IRS is using online activity trackers to scan massive amounts of public Internet data for potentially incriminating information.

Businesses are not immune from the social media snooping by the IRS. If your company webpage shows off new equipment, vehicles, lavish parties or expounds on your growing business while at the same time being behind on payroll taxes or suspiciously claiming beneficial business write-offs you may have some questions to answer. Keep in mind that your employees may be sharing company information on Facebook or Twitter that reflects the state of your company’s finances. Historically the IRS has used tax returns to audit businesses.  Social media scanning shows that they are now becoming more sophisticated with its investigative tools. Be careful about over sharing on public and private platforms to avoid an nasty letter from Uncle Sam.

Is email private?

You’re thinking your emails are private right? The answer is probably not. In a 2017 report  Washington State University professors issued a report  on IRS data mining, The Use of Big Data Analytics by the IRS: Efficient Solutions or the End of Privacy as We Know It?,  found the IRS was reading taxpayer private emails without a warrant. According to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), IRS investigators can read everything in your email account except unopened emails or voicemails saved for 180 days or less. According to the report the 2011 IRS auditor’s training manual told investigators exactly how to do it. The IRS stopped this practice in response to a Senate Finance Committee request. However, the ECPA law has not been changed. So effectively the IRS has not broken the law nor is not barred from doing this again.

Now you know.



African-Americans and Net Neutrality

fcc-seal_rgb_emboss-largeIn a close three to two vote along party lines, the FCC announced new rules on Internet governance to support net neutrality and the open Internet, protecting freedom of innovation and access to web content.

The new rules from the FCC, changed the way ISPs operate. The Internet has been re-classified as a utility. This means that all people have a right to the Internet. The new rules reflect the FCC’s re-classification of broadband as a Title II telecommunications service under the 1934 Communications Act. 

ISPs are now subject to the privacy provisions of the Communications Act of 1934. This new rule requires your ISP to provide you with any information they collect and maintain on you, the customer, upon written request.

Net neutrality has also been extended to wireless devices such as smartphones. The decision prevents cell providers from throttling, or slowing down, the data stream to your mobile device. A common practice of many carriers when they believe you consume too much data.

The three key provisions of the Open Internet Order covers both fixed and mobile internet access;

  • No blocking. ISPs cannot block access to legal content, apps, services or non-harmful devices;
  • No throttling. ISPs are forbidden from impairing or otherwise degrading legal Internet traffic on the basis of such criteria as content, apps, services or non-harmful devices.
  • No paid priority. ISPs are not allowed to charge for favored access of legal Internet traffic over other kinds in exchange for money. They are banned from giving their own content and services, and that of their affiliates, priority.

Internet service providers (ISPs), the companies that own the wires and antennas that transmit data, were seeking the right to charge Internet websites, content providers, and users based on how much data they put out or consume through those wires and antennas.

Advocates of net neutrality feared the creation of a two-tier internet where data flows are controlled and regulated based on one’s ability to pay.

Jessica Rosenworcel

Jessica Rosenworcel

Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic member of the commission said, “We cannot have a two-tiered Internet with fast lanes that speed the traffic of the privileged and leave the rest of us lagging behind. We cannot have gatekeepers who tell us what we can and cannot do and where we can and cannot go online. And we do not need blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization schemes that undermine the Internet as we know it.”

ISPs have a different view of the situation and the decision. These companies feel they have the right to profit from their investment they made in expanding the network and improving the speed of data transmission. They believe it is unfair for companies like Netflix, that consume huge amounts of network capacity, to use that capacity without paying more for it. They have a point. They also believe that the rules of the 1934 Communications Act are outdated and should not, and cannot, apply to today’s technology. These regulations, they believe, could cripple innovation by discouraging investment in networks. Some believe the rules could permit the government to impose new Internet taxes and tariffs increasing consumer bills and even give the government the power to force ISPs to share their networks with competitors. Sen. Ted Cruz has gone so far as to say the new rules are “Obamacare for the Internet.”

Republicans have accused the White House of skewing the independence of the FCC and called for an investigation into Obama’s role in shaping the rules. They conceded however they could not pass a veto proof net neutrality bill without support from Democrats. Major ISPs, cable and telecom companies have promised a court battle to reverse the ruling.

The FCC also voted to preempt state laws that prevented at least two cities from expanding their city owned broadband networks to neighboring communities especially rural areas.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

These communities have sought to over turn restrictive state laws prohibiting them from delivering high speed connectivity to rural neighbors. “There are a few irrefutable truths about broadband,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler ahead of the vote. “One is you can’t say you’re for broadband, and then turn around and endorse limits.”

Breaking It Down.

Many African-Americans may ask what is net neutrality and what does it mean to me? It means that black people will not be caught on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Black people and the economically disadvantage should not be left behind in the age of information. The ability to access knowledge, much like the public library, must be equal for all people.

In order for our schools to provide a quality education we need to have high speed Internet access. We cannot have politicians telling us they don’t have the money in the budget to pay for the needed connectivity.  The same way they tell us there is no money for music, athletics and other vitals of a good education. Connected schools for the rich alone? Don’t let that happen.

This decision is all about the digital divide. The gap between the have and the have nots. If we, as a nation, condone the restriction of access to the Internet based on who can pay then we take an terrifying step toward a dystopian society where education is for the rich alone. Don’t let that happen.

We have to realize that education is changing. Right now we are taking classes online and getting degrees. But soon the text book will be obsolete. It takes too much time and too many resources to update paper books. Books will be delivered over the Internet to a reader or tablet. Up to date and relevant content for the rich alone? Don’t let that happen.

We will have a society where education moves to the electronic classroom from pre-school to college and beyond. Classes tailored to the need and desires of the student. Lessons will be interactive and learning will be self-paced. Vastly improved quality of education for the rich alone? Don’t let that happen.

ISPs, in an effort to drive up profit margins, will eventually decide to categorize and price Internet access. That is the cablelization effect. We should not be forced to pick and choose what websites and services we can afford. Don’t let that happen.

Without net neutrality many people would find themselves limited to packages of Internet websites they can visit a month. Poor people will have to choose between researching information about their health or information about their government. They can’t afford both. Don’t let that happen.

This scenario will create an underclass of people who see the Internet and information as a luxury. As black people we understand very well how the denial of knowledge can impact people and equality. Denial of knowledge has been used throughout history to deny people equal rights.  Don’t let that happen.

The Internet must be considered a utility. Similar to essentials like water, electricity and the telephone, it is a matter of fairness and human dignity.

I understand perfectly what the ISPs are saying when it comes to their investment in the networks. But like the telephone companies learned long ago, once you become essential to the human condition you lose the right to decide who you can do business with and how much you can charge. Consider it an honor.

But restricting access to knowledge and information is the equivalent of charging admission to the public library. We can’t let that happen.

African-American Websites Not Black Owned

Image courtesy of aablc.org

Using the Internet is not a color issue. People use the Internet for every possible reason but it really boils down to what do you need or want? Are you looking for news, recipes, new shoes or lost friends? It’s the Internet and all it does is provide information. That’s what African-American websites do. Its what all websites do.  But if you think you are getting your news and information from other African-Americans or black owned media you would be sadly mistaken. You are about to see who really owns some black websites.

As a media and communications outlet black people use the Internet to search for their needs and we are specifically interested in finding information that is pre-digested to reflect our experience and point of view. Some people may find that funny but let me break it down like this; all people have a unique culture. We are all different and that is not a bad thing. But as African-Americans we have to see the world differently. Its not our choice but our reality.

So when it comes to news and information, we have a unique need and there are few websites that really reflect how we think, believe, experience and act. Its called being black. And its just as different and no more harmful than being Chinese or German.

For example did you know that many of the so called “black” or “African-American” website are not at all black owned or operated? The Grio.com, HuffingtonPost’s BlackVoices.com, Blackfamilies.org, and many others are either corporate owned or share ownership with non-African-Americans, a simple fact of life. But that is not to say they are doing anything wrong. We have to deal with the reality of money. Who has the money to create a powerful web presence? Who has the money to attract web advertising with relevant content? Who has the money to pay the top talent on the Internet? You don’t need me to answer those questions.

But lets take this one step further. These websites serve the black community, providing Afro-centric news and information and delivering targeted advertising to the African-American demographic but it’s non African-Americans that profit. Its all about black people except the money!

Black websites, that is websites owned by black people, like this one, have a place and responsibility in black culture. See black people are coming to understand something a teacher taught me a long time ago, she said; “He who controls the image controls the mind. He who controls the mind has no fear of the body.” So as black people we need to understand that we must portray how we are seen by others. We need to define who we are and not the other way around. That’s what Soul Train did. That’s what Essence, Jet and Ebony magazine did for us. They allowed us to portray who we are. And we did it honestly. We showed the world who were are, the good and the ugly. And we’re still doing it.

So with that being said let me provide you with the top black owned websites as determined by Huria.org. These websites are owned and operated by African-American people and provide information from a black perspective. As for the all the other websites serving the African-American demographic; keep doing what you doing. I ain’t mad at you!

Now you know.


Websites for Black Parents

canstockphoto2913385Like all parents black parents sometimes need a little help. Children are a great responsibility and a can be your greatest , joy, burden and challenge. So how do we cope with raising black children in an unfriendly world? There are places that black parents can seek help and find answers to their questions.

The beauty of social media is that you can connect with others that share similar backgrounds, views and experiences. Its the essence of social media, connecting with people. Here are a few websites that are created for black parents and families

Black Parents InitiativeThe Black Parent Initiative (BPI) is a transformative community provider of holistic parent education services.  Many social service agencies make two fundamental mistakes: they treat Black people as unhealthy and they begin interventions too late. Families should not have to wait until they have fallen through the cracks to receive the help they need. We focus on developing social capital, personal/community reliance, self-sustainability and community engagement with families in order to habilitate them, educate them and encourage them to self-activate. BPI provides comprehensive services that address needs including employment, housing and education, placing an emphasis on the importance of Black male and father involvement in all aspects of family and community life.

Black Parent Network – A membership website that offers a variety of services and lifestyle education for parents of children of color. According to the site; “We aim to provide support and information to empower parents who care for children of color. We aim to be inclusive of all family models and only ask that users of the site respect the ethnicity, religious views and life style choices of others.” A few of the topics addressed on the site include; black parenting and parenting skills,education, health, finances and many others.

Black Parents Forum For 15 years Black Parents Forum has been interested in and organizing black parents in the pursuit of academic excellence for black children.

Black Parenting Blog – Created by  at home mom LaShanda Henry for the black family, with mothers especially in mind, the Black Parenting Blog is all about raising African American Children and building happy black families. Featured topics include: Black Education, African American Children’s Books, African American Pregnancy, Work at Home Moms, Black Marriages and Couples, discussion on African American baby, toddler and teen issues.

Council of African-American Parents– Our mission to enhance the educational opportunities of students through academics, social activities and cultural awareness remain at the forefront of our organizational agenda. Our menu of services for scholars and parents is reflected in our ability to develop and implement programming that supports our mission.

Black Fathers– Blackfathers.org is dedicated to providing information about Black fatherhood. We publish stories about Black fathers from all over the world. Stories are accepted from Black fathers, friends of Black fathers and family members connected to Black fathers.

Black and Married with KidsBMWK is the largest independent African-American marriage and parenting site on the web.  The site was founded by husband and wife duo Lamar & Ronnie Tyler in Dec. 2007. BMWK has attracted over 6 million readers in just 6 years. The website has been featured in the Washington Post, Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Michael Baisden Show and many others.

The Association of African American Single MothersThe AAASM addresses the areas of education, financial stability, self-motivation and discipline through programs and services.

As you can see there are plenty of resources for black parents. You can find even more in Black Families Online a book written by Stacey Montgomery and available at Amazon.com. I encourage black parents to explore these sites for news and information that may shine a light on problems you are having. Invest in education and awareness about being a black parent and connect with those who are in the same boat as you.

Now you know.