Facebook Messenger is the dominant instant messaging service used by younger adults who increasingly use their cell phone as the primary device for electronic communications. It is possible to combine use this platform to combine various forms of communications including voice, text, video, photo and image documents. I’ve focused the development of an online income tax filing service specifically around the capabilities of Facebook Messenger. This post serves as an abstract of my results of a recently completed internal report on Security and Privacy Issues of Facebook Messenger.
Lack of Citations
While most of my blog posts include some citations or list additional resources, this one does not because I may offer services on this topic through a client consultation engagement in the future.
IRS authorizes the use of paperless tax filing for some filers through its e-file system and prescribes standards for professional tax return preparers related to security, privacy, professional standards and electronic signatures.
Facebook does not use an end-to-end encryption that would offer the highest level of security. Still, published reports indicate that security is adequate and there are no widely published reports of application-specific hacking.
More secure web-based platforms are available to tax clients at no additional charge. Yet I suspect that many filers would decline to use more secure alternate platforms because of the slight inconvenience factor.
When Facebook Messenger launched in early 2014, there were many reports of privacy concerns. Since then, most publications rebuke those concerns. Facebook Messenger system is now reported to be at least as secure as web-based email.
Facebook Messenger Tools
Facebook Messenger includes a file attachment and transfer service that allows for the transfer of one document at a time. This is the best option for sending tax information. Alternately, it is usually possible to photograph a document and then send a copy of the photograph. If you have a phone app like Microsoft Lens (that runs on IOS and Android) then you can easily scan a document with your phone and save and send it in PDF format that is most commonly file type used for this type of work.
My conclusion is that Facebook Messenger is suitable for communications related to some individual income tax return preparation services. It is possible for a taxpayer to complete the tax filing engagement entirely through Facebook Messenger in a safe and legal manner.
Note added 1/4/2016: Last spring I completed the first few individual tax returns based solely on Facebook Messenger communications and there wee no problems with the returns. I expect to handle more that way in the coming tax season.