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Google Maps Used To Find Tax Cheats 174

Posted by Soulskill
from the novel-use-of-resources dept.
phantomfive writes "Some countries are worried about the privacy implications of Google Maps, but Lithuania is using them to find tax cheats. 'After Google's car-borne cameras were driven through the Vilnius area last year, the tax men in this small Baltic nation got busy. They have spent months combing through footage looking for unreported taxable wealth. ... Two recent cases netted $130,000 in taxes and penalties after investigators found houses photographed by Google that weren't on official maps. ... "We were very impressed," said Modestas Kaseliauskas, head of the State Tax Authority. "We realized that we could do more with less and in shorter time."' The people of Lithuania don't seem to mind. 'Authorities have been aided by the local populace. "We received even more support than we expected," said Mr. Kaseliauskas.'"
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Google Maps Used To Find Tax Cheats

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  • by war4peace (1628283) on Friday May 31, 2013 @02:32PM (#43875927)

    The people of Lithuania don't seem to mind. 'Authorities have been aided by the local populace. "We received even more support than we expected," said Mr. Kaseliauskas.'

    It's only normal and expected. I would help authorities catch the assholes who don't pay their taxes. Unfortunately, where I live authorities don't even try catching them, mainly because they're all the same.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday May 31, 2013 @02:41PM (#43876051) Journal

      Aside from 'fairness' in itself(which probably is a motivator, you can even piss off some of the smarter flavors of monkeys by presenting them with 'unfair' situations), I suspect that perfectly sensible self-interest is at work:

      When the tax man comes, the poor are least able to hide(they have no lawyers, no accountants, and they tend to spend close to what they earn, so even if they are being paid in cash under the table, they still show up in sales taxes); but they also have fuck all money to collect.

      The wealthy(especially so in countries with high levels of economic inequality) are where the assets are, often a commanding percentage of them; but they also have by far the most sophisticated measures for avoiding taxation.

      It's the intermediate cases, who might actually have enough money to even be worth the trouble of collecting; but have neither the money nor the influence to engage in effective tax evasion, who end up footing the bill(since going after people poorer than them is nearly pointless, there just isn't any wealth there, and going after people richer than them has traditionally been difficult). Why wouldn't they resent tax evasion?

      • by JimMcc (31079) on Friday May 31, 2013 @03:35PM (#43876769) Homepage

        The wealthy(especially so in countries with high levels of economic inequality) are where the assets are, often a commanding percentage of them; but they also have by far the most sophisticated measures for avoiding taxation.

        Like the USA? We have greater economic inequality since the robber baron era. And we seem hell bent on becoming the newest third world country.

        • Yes, the US is an unfortunately good example of this behavior in action.

        • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:38PM (#43878171) Journal

          The problem is, and the GP hinted at it, taxes are regressive.The rich can simply move to avoid taxes, while the poor are left holding the bag. Rich can avoid taxes, the poor cannot. Additionally, when the wealthy move or move their assets to avoid taxes (confiscatory) it hurts the poor more than it does the wealthy, taking jobs with them, but leaving those that fill the jobs behind.

          They once tried a tax on "Luxury" items, like boats (yachts) and other things, the rich simply stopped buying them. It didn't hurt them, it hurt those that built, sold, maintained and staffed them. It was repealed fairly quickly. Problem is, this admittedly anecdotal evidence, is never remembered by those who keep trying to soak the rich.

          Really, taxing the RICH doesn't help anyone. It just makes you feel better.

      • When the tax man comes, the poor are least able to hide(they have no lawyers, no accountants, and they tend to spend close to what they earn, so even if they are being paid in cash under the table, they still show up in sales taxes); but they also have fuck all money to collect

        At least in the US, "the poor" are generally getting far more out of the system, tax wise, than they are putting in.

        • Are they ?
          Two cases spring to mind housing and wages
          first housing a tenant gets government money to pay a proportion up to 100% in some cases to pay their landlord. The landlord has a buy to let mortgage which is paid for by the rent received and gives him a comfortable profit. Seems to me the government is subsidizing the landlord clearly the cost of providing that housing is more than if the council was to buy the house pay the mortgage and rent it to the tenant. if the tenant in that house continues t

        • by dryeo (100693) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @02:42AM (#43881261)

          (I'm in Canada which shouldn't be much different) That's true for the bottom 10% or so, it's the next 40 or 50% that really suffer. There was a recent study, no link sorry, that the bottom 50% of Canadians actually pay a larger percent of their income in taxes and government fees then the top 50%. It's the fees that are the real killer. Need tires? Well there's a $20 environment fee so if all you can afford is the $60 cheap Chinese tire that you'd be nuts to take on the freeway, well there's a 33% tax, I mean fee, plus the sales tax and GST on the fee bringing the price up to close to $100 per tire plus mounting and balancing. Buy a top of the line S rated tire for $300 a piece, well the fee is still $20 so you're paying $320 plus taxes. Either way disposal consists of throwing the worn tires into a container and shipping to Africa for a small profit so the environment fee is just a tax that hits the poor
          There are a million example of similar fees and taxes that actually hit the poor harder so even though they pay little income tax they don't have any near the money left over from taxes etc compared to the rich who also get low income tax and pay a much smaller percent in fees. Oh, GST is reimbursed if you're a business as well here and if you're rich, you have a business and tax number.

    • Unfortunately, where I live authorities don't even try catching them, mainly because they're all the same.

      ...do you mean the same cheaters, or that the authorities and the cheats are one and the same? Because out here, it's the latter.

      • Both :)
        Authorities cheat, wealthy people who are not authorities cheat as well and there's some sort of mutually-advantageous non-involvement agreement going on between the two.

        About 8 years back there was a country-wide police audit which intended to find those members of the police force owning unjustified assets. They found... 2 (two) guys and sentenced them to... disciplinary move to the countryside for three years.
        No further comment.

    • by FreeUser (11483) on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:14PM (#43877913)

      It's only normal and expected. I would help authorities catch the assholes who don't pay their taxes.

      Agreed. Or put another way:

      Dear Tax Dodger,

      Fuck you. Pony up.

      Most Sincerely,

      The rest of us who pay our taxes honestly.

  • by Qwavel (733416) on Friday May 31, 2013 @02:35PM (#43875953)

    Personally, I would think that people would be happy to help the tax cops find the tax cheats. When rich people and corporations cheat on their taxes I have to pay more.

    And yet I understand his surprise. For some reason, ordinary joes & janes (who get a salary and have little opportunity to cheat on their taxes) often seem to be against the idea of clamping down on high-end tax cheats. For some reason, their feeling that taxes are unpleasant (to put it mildly) translates into an aversion to the idea of them being properly enforced.

    • by gnasher719 (869701) on Friday May 31, 2013 @02:39PM (#43876017)
      Here's how some people think:

      1. I want to be rich.
      2. If I was rich, I wouldn't want to pay a lot of taxes.
      3. Therefore, I don't want rich people to pay a lot of taxes.

      It's totally irrational, but that's how it goes.
      • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday May 31, 2013 @02:45PM (#43876093)

        Yeah, it seems nearly all Americans think of themselves merely as temporarily embarrassed millionaires. Which leads to stupidity like people voting for politicians that promise to cut the taxes of the rich and end the programs that the voter needs to eat.

        • by fche (36607)

          If many voters need politicians' help to satisfy their "needs to eat", something is very wrong.

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            I agree, a system that has working folks who cannot afford to live without government assistance is incredibly wrong.

            • by fche (36607)

              Luckily not "many" - many enough to be referred to as a voting block in the grandparent. Surely less than 47%.

              • by h4rr4r (612664)

                You can look at the numbers for TANF and add in the folks moved to disability to get these numbers. That last thing is done to make the feds pay for them instead of the state.

                47% vastly over states the issue, but it is a pretty funny quote. While I might not like our current president, at least we dodged a hell of a bullet.

          • It's certainly not the case that wages are incredibly depressed compared to productivity, and the average private employer wages in this country force people to live paycheck to paycheck. Oh man, if you could only imagine a country if people might unexpectedly lose their job, face high unemployment and need weeks they don't have to find new work. It would be so horrible, thank god we don't live in a country like that, and we can afford to be crass and ignore the possibility of anyone starving.

        • by jtseng (4054)

          Dear 'Murrikans,

          The city on a hill is a myth. Manifest Destiny is a myth. 'Murrikan exceptionalism is a crock of shit. Any sort of decency or aspiration is a universal human trait. And unless you graduate from college/vo-tech, work damn hard, and/or get lucky, you're not going to do better than the clowns that appear on the Jerry Springer show.

          PS - see if you can find Benghazi on a map. Hell, see if you can find the US on a map.

        • by russotto (537200)

          Yeah, it seems nearly all Americans think of themselves merely as temporarily embarrassed millionaires. Which leads to stupidity like people voting for politicians that promise to cut the taxes of the rich and end the programs that the voter needs to eat.

          The problem is I get the choice between Candidate A, who says he's going to raise the taxes for the rich (greater than half what I make) to fund programs for the poor (less than one tenth of what I make), and Candidate B, who says he's going to lower the ta

      • by pla (258480) on Friday May 31, 2013 @03:03PM (#43876295) Journal
        3. Therefore, I don't want rich people to pay a lot of taxes.

        I normally would agree with you on "typical idiot" grounds, but in this case, I think you've sold a lot of people short.

        I, along with plenty of others, object to taxes - Mine, Bill Gates', yours - Because we have a government that doesn't even pretend to represent our interests anymore. we therefore view starving it out of existence the most rational course of action (and don't give me that crap about getting to choose between Tweedledee and Tweedledum every few years).

        Yes, we have a country that really should just get it over with and split in half along red/blue boundaries. But deeper than that, we could find far more common ground than disagreement, on which the government consistently goes against the will of us all, in favor of either itself or its non-compulsory financial supporters (ie, Fritz Hollings, D-Disney). We have wars no one supports, prohibitions no one supports, social controls no one supports, entitlements only those receiving them support, a justice system that protects serial rapists and murderers from real justice while putting good people away for technicalities. Even down to the petty BS, we have red light cameras proven to cause more accidents, speed limits everyone goes at least 10mph over, a drinking age that practically no one reaches before getting drunk... For each of the "big" laws we can agree we need to keep us from each other's throats, we have a thousand papercuts to which we add the insult that we have to pay to inflict them on ourselves.

        So I don't want the rich to cheat. I don't want to get rich out of a delusion that someday I'll get to cheat. I don't want to not pay my "fair share" - More like I don't want a share at all of what they offer.
        • I don't know how a person could come to believe this without becoming a violent revolutionary soon afterwards. If you honestly want to starve your government to death and go through the bloody transition to a new one, why not take a shot at seeing it happen within your lifetime rather than "suffering" your whole life for the supposed good of future generations?

        • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Friday May 31, 2013 @03:44PM (#43876885) Journal
          You are delusional. Government is not the major threat to your liberty now. It is the corporations and rich guys who threaten your liberty. The rich will use any means to threaten your liberty. Right now they buy politicians, corrupt the government, run astro turf organizations, hire shills and liars to get you. Among all these instruments they use, democratic government is the only thing that you can use at some point to get the control back, get the country back. At some point enough people will pay enough attention to clean up the mess.

          And the rich know it too. So they use all the resources they have to create a pathological irrational antipathy to all government and persuade you to reduce taxes and reduce it ability to enforce laws. Just remember this, if you actually manage to starve the government out of existence, there is nothing to stop you from being enslaved by the rich once again.

          If you are not rich, the democracy is the only weapon you have, the only way to achieve liberty. Starving the beast is a snake oil sold by self serving rich people and the shills bought by them.

          • As far as I can see both you and he have valid points. The government does serve in a protective capacity for the poor, and the government does abuse its powers, sometimes leading to wars in the case of the US. The correct answer of course is a middle ground, controlling the government and restraining the abuses while encouraging the equalising and protective ability for the poor. Note that means the poor, not the unionised public sector, which has proven itself very capable of holding entire countries to r

      • by ifdef (450739)

        I'm not sure that that accurately describes the situation in Lithuania.

        Many of the people who are rich there are perceived, rightly or wrongly, of having made their money, not by working hard, but by having influence. When Lithuania privatized large sections of the economy, state assets were often bought at a bargain price by those who were friends of the officials handling the privatization. These may have been former communist officials, kingpins of organized crime, or both (assuming that there's a diff

      • by mc6809e (214243)

        Here's how some people think:

        1. I want to be rich.
        2. If I was rich, I wouldn't want to pay a lot of taxes.
        3. Therefore, I don't want rich people to pay a lot of taxes.

        4. Make sure the government taxes income instead of wealth.
        5. Profit!

        #4 is nice because if you're rich, you can look like a saint by calling for higher taxes on the wealthy knowing that most people are ignorant of the difference between wealth and income. You can smile knowing hard working highly paid (but not necessarily rich) professionals,

    • by fche (36607)

      ... or maybe they have a sense that taxes are a necessary evil. One might feel schadenfreude at the violators due to the former ... but also sympathy due to the latter.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday May 31, 2013 @02:45PM (#43876089) Journal

        ... or maybe they have a sense that taxes are a necessary evil. One might feel schadenfreude at the violators due to the former ... but also sympathy due to the latter.

        I think that the surprising thing is that anybody would think that a necessary evil badly and unevenly enforced would possibly be better than a necessary evil efficiently and fairly enforced.

        There is, arguably, nothing more corrosive to the rule of law than flagrantly spotty and selective enforcement of it.

        • by fche (36607)

          Good point ... were it not that the law itself can be illogical / capricious.

          • The point remains in that case: an illogical/capricious law enforced inconsistently or selectively is going to be even more illogical and capricious than such a law upheld uniformly. Doesn't mean that you don't want to get it off the books as soon as possible; but selective enforcement is a beautiful tool for keeping shit on the books: if you don't enforce it in situations were somebody might fight back, it could remain for decades without trouble, ready to be thrown at anybody unsympathetic enough to be a

        • If this necessary evil were fairly and evenly enforced, everyone making over $x would pay the same percentage of tax on income, with no loopholes. That way Joe Ghetto pays nothing on his meager poverty-line income, Joe Sixpack eats a 25%** cut of his middle-class income (no mortgage/child-care credits, etc), and Joe Caviar would dole out 25%** of his massive income (no trusts, shell companies, overseas banks accounts, etc.)

          This would damned sure get folks to pay attention, and maybe they'd start screaming a

          • by ultranova (717540)

            If this necessary evil were fairly and evenly enforced, everyone making over $x would pay the same percentage of tax on income, with no loopholes.

            Close, but in your scenario it's possible to end up with less in hand as your income increases. How the real system works is that you only pay taxes on the portion of your income that exceeds $x (and higher percentages on portions exceeding other tresholds), solving this problem.

    • by Solandri (704621)

      When rich people and corporations cheat on their taxes I have to pay more.

      Agreed on the rich people part. Disagree on the corporation part. Corporations don't pay taxes. They just pass them through to their customers and employees.

      Money is just a representation of productivity. People are the only source of productivity, whether they're acting individually or organized together into a company. Taxes are a diversion of part of that productivity into the government's coffers (not a big deal because t

  • I can just see the coming flurry of bills on the Senate floor to obfuscate parts of Google maps "in the name of national security"

    • That would be a waste of time. Many jurisdictions are already paying for aerial imagery taken by aircraft flying and filming precise routes over their territory. They can clearly see when new structures appear or when existing structures are modified. In fact, automated algorithms can actually find the changes for them. With oblique imagery, jurisdictions can even measure the height of structures. Here is an example of a company that provides such services. Pictometry - Government - Assess [pictometry.com]
      • by nairnr (314138)

        That would be a waste of time. Many jurisdictions are already paying for aerial imagery taken by aircraft flying and filming precise routes over their territory. They can clearly see when new structures appear or when existing structures are modified. In fact, automated algorithms can actually find the changes for them. With oblique imagery, jurisdictions can even measure the height of structures. Here is an example of a company that provides such services. Pictometry - Government - Assess [pictometry.com]

        Very true... It is very important to most municipalities to have accurate GIS based data. It is used for so many things. I was just at the local ESRI conference in Calgary where they were showing their integrated awareness system which incorporates something like 200+ datasets from different business units. When I had a city tree removed they knew its entire history - what kind of tree, when it had been pruned. All of this helps a city run smoothly and react to requests.

        This very example was shown from

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Friday May 31, 2013 @03:08PM (#43876371)

    Dear Mr. Google,

    Please tell me when your satellite gadget is going to be flying over me taking snapshots. I would like to go outside, and show the IRS my better side.

    Thanks,

    Mr. Kid

  • I'm sure there's a pic somewhere on Google Maps of a super hero ducking into his lair.

  • Maybe the people of Lithuania don't seem to mind because their Tax Agency actually has a reputation for fairness, due process, and reasonable penalties for violators. Stranger things have happened. I personally made use of the street view in Lithuania to "visit" my ancestors' villages. (They left for the US ca. 1910, but the villages have survived the past century pretty well.)
    • Maybe the people of Lithuania don't seem to mind because their Tax Agency actually has a reputation for fairness, due process, and reasonable penalties for violators.

      ROFL

      Here's one thing I know about the Tax Agency. They provide explanations of certain tax laws, basically "the law says you have to do this, this and that", then, some time later, they change the explanation and fine anybody who was following the previous explanation essentially for not being able to see the future.

  • by argStyopa (232550)

    I simply don't believe it.

    In there, you have a GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL claiming that he's happy that they could do MORE with LESS?

    Seriously, this is the internet but there is just some shit that I cannot believe.

  • by knorthern knight (513660) on Friday May 31, 2013 @08:34PM (#43879793)

    http://boingboing.net/2010/05/04/satellite-photos-cat.html [boingboing.net]
    > As the nation of Greece teeters on the edge of bankruptcy, its tax authorities
    > are taking aim at Greece's notorious tax-evading rich elite. Using satellite
    > photos, the tax authority examined the claim of the residents of Athens's
    > wealthy suburbs and discovered that, rather than the 324 swimming
    > pools claimed by the locals, there were 16,974 of them.

    http://www.italymagazine.com/italy/olbia/google-earth-reveals-tax-evasion-scam-italys-finance-police [italymagazine.com]
    > Google Earth reveals tax evasion scam to Italy's Finance Police

    http://gizmodo.com/5603054/officials-are-looking-for-your-swimming-pool-on-google-earth-right-now [gizmodo.com]
    > Officials Are Looking For Your Swimming Pool on Google Earth Right Now

  • I do not understand why governments do not adopt the balanced account system: each individual or business should have their accounts balanced: their current expenses plus current savings must match the savings of the previous year plus their current earnings.

    Thus, with such a system, no one would be able to hide profits, simply because if they did so there accounts would be unbalanced.

  • I've been impressed enough to give job references ("I worked supervising Mr.X at Y for Z months, and when I had to give Mr.X shit for his equipment falling apart, he impressed me with his repairs, and his honesty." He went on to work for much higher pay with less unreliable equipment and so had to lie less.) And I'm glad to see that others are as imaginative, and effective. Good one, guys and girls! Sock it to them and make sure that the rich thieves pay their taxes!

[Crash programs] fail because they are based on the theory that, with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month. -- Wernher von Braun

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