Mexican Senate Shoots Down ‘Big Brother’ Surveillance Bill



A controversial proposal by Mexico’s Treasury Secretariat that would have allowed Tax Administration Service (SAT) auditors to take photos and videos during auditing visits was shot down by the Senate late Thursday, Oct. 30, after having slid through the country’s lower legislative house earlier in the week.

The bill had caused worry among many Mexican taxpayers, especially those who have businesses registered at their home addresses.

In Mexico, the SAT is allowed to visit businesses under audit if it suspects “inconsistencies” in tax filings.

For small business owners who use their home address as the business’ address, that means a home visit.

The proposal would have allowed SAT authorities to take pictures during these business visits, which, in the past, have been documented with pen-and-paper descriptions of the work space and what’s in it.

Some critics called the proposed bill a “Big Brother” intrusion, under which auditors would have been able to “go everywhere, even the kitchen.”

But that’s not true, SAT official Abel Romero López said in a press conference on Monday, Oct. 26.

The current process requires “pages and pages” of paperwork, Romero López explained, and taking photos would have sped up the process in tax trials.

However, photos would have only been taken of a taxpayer’s workspace, according to the official.

“That is, if your work was at home, the SAT would (take pictures of) a computer and a desk, but (it would) never have been able to invade your privacy (by taking) photographs of your kitchen or bedroom. That couldn’t have been done,” he said.

Romero López also said that, if the proposal had gone into effect, photos taken during auditory visits would have been virtually “locked up” to prevent their misuse or dissemination.

However, Raquel Buenrostro, head of the SAT, admitted that the photos could have been misused.

“We have to give security and protection to the taxpayer,” she said.

“I understand that it is very difficult to let a verifier (take photographs and videos) because the SAT isn’t infallible, and some SAT actors could (abuse their) authority. Yes, this was a concern.”

The proposal, which was passed to the Senate from the House of Deputies as part of the 2021 budget, was ultimately scratched from the budget bill, eliminating Articles 45, 69 and 137 of the new Federal Fiscal Code (CFF) that allowed for the use of technological tools to capture images of audited sites.

…Oct. 30, 2020


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