My mom spends thousands shopping on Facebook, but doesn’t tell my father. I pay on credit and she repays me. Will the bank alert the IRS?

 My mom spends thousands shopping on Facebook, but doesn’t tell my father. I pay on credit and she repays me. Will the bank alert the IRS?

Dear Quentin,

My mother does a lot of shopping on Facebook, using Zelle , CashApp, Venmo or Paypal
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She’s not the most technology-literate person, and doesn’t want to hassle my stepdad each time she wants to pay for stuff. So now I use my checking account to send money by Zelle to these sellers. 

I’m sending out between $500 to $5,000 a month. She’ll then give me cash to pay me back when I visit her. I also have two of her credit cards deducted from my checking account that pays automatically each month to pay back.

I’ve also given her authorization to use my cards so that she doesn’t always have to pay in cash whenever she goes to the store, and in return it gives me membership rewards and cash back, and I’ll let her know how much she spent, and she’ll pay me back in cash.

I’m constantly sending out payments in Zelle, and depositing cash weekly in my bank account. Will the bank report the cash deposits to the Internal Revenue Service, and will the IRS think I’m not reporting extra income? Or will they suspect me of anything illegal because of all the activities?

Complex Financials

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Complex,

Typically, if the deposits are less than $10,000 a month, the bank does not alert the IRS. However, the financial services sector and the Biden administration are at odds over reducing this to as little as $600. A bank’s system may be alerted that there is something untoward going on with your account if it notices any unusual activity and message you. 

There is, however, unusual activity going on. First, your mother is spending a large amount of time on social media shopping sites buying stuff to the tune of $5,000 a month. Second, she does not want to “hassle” her husband about it. Third, she has roped you into these complex social-media shopping escapades, and you get something out of it too (rewards points). 

It’s time to ask your mother what she is buying, why she needs it and what God-shaped hole these purchases are filling in her life. And, yes, it’s time for you to sit down with your father and explain what’s going on. If your mother does not have a shopping addiction — or the beginnings of one — she would not have kept it a secret in the first place, and would not mind you mentioning it to your father.

Your mother is not the only person sitting at home during the pandemic, spending money on social media. “Social media has transformed from a place of sharing to a place of discovery, and even shopping, particularly as it relates to fashion,” according to an NPD Group report released last June. The research firm found that 51% of people polled said they make purchases on Facebook
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or Instagram.

You are right to ask the question about unusual activity with your bank account. But the bigger question relates to the shopping activities of your mother. Whether you realize it or not, you are enabling your mother’s lavish spending. Even if your parents are extremely wealthy, the secrecy of this arrangement should set off alarm bells with you long before they set off red lights with your bank or the IRS.

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The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

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