Wednesday, 31 January 2007

I spider tax man coming

Today is the last chance for many eBayers in the UK to submit their self assessment tax return if they haven't already done so. Not only that but by close of business today millions of people up and down the country will suddenly have lighter bank accounts as they settle any balancing payments from the 2005-2006 tax year and make the first payment for the 2006-2007 tax year. It's an expensive time of year but for those that have adequate financial planning an accepted fact of being self employed.

What of those happily selling on eBay that have "forgotten" about the tax man? Well I guess they'll be oblivious to the filling in and completing a tax return but will they get caught or are they home and dry laughing all the way to the bank?

A little known computer program called Xenon has been loose on the web for the last two years. Xenon is a spider which crawls website a little like Googlebot which trawls websites cataloguing everything in it's path. While Google crawls the entire web Xenon is more specific restricting itself to Internet auction sites such as eBay. Slowly but surely it visits each individual auction and saves them along with links to all other auctions from the seller. Then it's Identity Information Extraction Module correlates any information such as names, postcodes, cities, streets against national databases to identify mailing addresses and users real identities which can be matched with tax records.

Xenon originated in The Netherlands and now operates in four other countries as well - Austria, Denmark, Canada and of course in The United Kingdom. Next time you're wondering if your competitors on eBay are undercutting you because they're not paying tax relax with the thought that big brother really is watching. Time is running out for those cheating the system.



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