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Tuesday, 03 August 2010 11:51

Greece uses Google Earth to catch tax cheats

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Pools and villas are a dead giveaway
Greek authorities have come up with a cunning new plan to find tax cheats using some not-so-down to earth technology, Google Earth.

Government beancounters have figured out that satellite imagery can easily reveal pools and other bourgeoisie landscaping efforts.

Inspectors have already managed to find hundreds of luxurious country villas and thousands of unregistered swimming pools. As it turns out, the suburbs of Athens had just 324 registered swimming pools, but Google’s eye in the sky found a bit more, 16,794 to be exact. This is not the first time Google Earth has been used to locate unreported or uncertified buildings, but it’s the first time it was used on such a vast scale.

Greece’s newly formed financial crimes squad SDOE has also found other less techie but nonetheless innovative ways of nabbing tax cheats. Investigators spent several weeks on nightclub parking lots painstakingly writing down the license plates of luxurious vehicles. The result of their investigation was equally impressive. They found that 6,000 car owners used cars worth more than €100,000, but only reported €10,000 of annual income to authorities.

It’s clear that Greece won’t be a pleasant place for tax dodgers in the years to come. Telling the taxmen that your villa is just a shed and that the pool is a reservoir for an olive grove will probably result in criminal charges and very stiff penalties.

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