Revenue using Google Maps to assess property values
The Revenue Commissioners is using Google Maps to assess the value of homes liable for the Local Property Tax (LPT), the Dáil's spending watchdog has heard.
Revenue chairman Niall Cody said the use of the technology allowed his officials to avoid the need to physically visit properties when questions over valuations arose.
He told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that Revenue's property tax register had been geo-coded and mapped down to individual-property level.
Once mapped, it is also linked to publicly available information such as Google Maps and Google Streetview to assist case workers in profiling potentially non-compliant valuations.
Mr Cody told the PAC that the property tax register was built within nine months during a time "when our resources were diminishing both in terms of staff numbers and administrative budget".
The compliance rate for LPT for 2013 and 2014 was 97pc, while the rate for 2015 stands at 96pc.
Mr Cody said that since 2013, 600,000 warning letters had been sent for non-payment of the property tax or household charge.
He said payments had been deducted from salaries or pensions in more than 140,000 cases, while over 1,000 cases had been referred to the Sheriff.
Meanwhile, Mr Cody told the PAC that there were 47,000 properties which were listed as having no "owner identity".
In response to questions by Fine Gael TD Gabrielle McFadden, Mr Cody said this had proven to be a " huge challenge" for Revenue.
He said the issue of dwellings not having identifiable owners was a particular issue in rural areas.
But he said some properties were duplicated or wrong owner names were attached and that he did not believe all of the 47,000 properties were liable for the property tax.
Separately during the meeting, the Revenue chief spoke of the "massive problem" posed by illegal fuel laundering.
He said that since 2011, Revenue had closed down 134 filling stations as part of a strategy aimed at tackling illegal trade.
"What we are trying to do is identify where suspicious quantities end up," Mr Cody said.
Further operations, which are being run as cross-border initiatives, are set to be rolled out.