Paul L. Caron

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Using Google Earth to Find Tax Cheats

Google Earth Fortune, Greek Government Uses Google Maps to Find Tax Cheats:

When you do a Google Maps or Google Earth fly over of residential neighborhoods, it is pretty easy to spot who has a pool and who doesn't.  In fact, if you look closely, you can even see people enjoying themselves by their pools.  This has been the case pretty much since Google bought Keyhole Technologies (the product that would become Google Earth) in 2004.

Fast forward six years, and the Greek government is proud to announce that they've discovered that you can see people who have pools, and Villas and other stuff that they've been lying about on their taxes for years.  All using Google Maps' satellite view.

They use satellite pictures by Google Earth to locate country villas, swimming pools and properties. And these tactics have revealed that the suburbs didn't have 324 swimming pools, as was reported, but rather 16,974.

Update:  As Mary O'Keeffe (Union College) notes, this practice is moving to the U.S. I previously blogged the annual IRS Research Conference in June 2010, which included this paper and presentation:

Inspectors or Google Earth? Optimal Fiscal Policies Under Uncertain Detection of Evaders, by Martin Besfamille & Pablo Olmos (Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, Argentina)

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That's not all that can be seen from the air: in Australia where there are at times strict restrictions on watering the garden a gentleman who took a trip in a hot air balloon across Bendigo reported that the rain was falling mainly in the backyards.

Posted by: Jalaluddin | Aug 5, 2010 4:44:31 PM

As someone without a swimming pool who has their taxes automatically dedecuted from his paycheck, let be be the first to say "ha ha!"

Posted by: Benjamin | Aug 5, 2010 2:48:18 PM