Some European countries have been going after Google, complaining that the search giant is invading the privacy of their citizens. But tax inspectors here have turned to the prying eyes of Street View for their own purposes.
After Google's car-borne cameras were driven through the Vilnius [Lithuania] 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.
"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."
More than 100 people have been identified so far after investigators compared Street View images of about 500 properties with state property registries looking for undeclared construction.
Two recent cases netted $130,000 in taxes and penalties after investigators found houses photographed by Google that weren't on official maps.
From aerial surveillance to dedicated iPhone apps, cash-strapped governments across Europe are employing increasingly unconventional measures against tax cheats to raise revenue. In some countries, authorities have tried to enlist citizens to help keep watch. Customers in Greece, for instance, are insisting on getting receipts for what they buy.This is only the teaser for a longer article.
The phenomenon of cash-strapped taxing jurisdictions will lead to all sorts of creativity in this brave world of high tech and, its component, the internet. It brings to mind the aphorism, variously stated, that you can run but you can't hide (see Wikipedia, here).