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Revenue is using Google to snoop for swimming pools

Google Earth and StreetView are the latest tools to be used against tax evaders by the Revenue Commissioners snooping to find evidence of undeclared wealth or illicit earnings.

The satellite and street view images may be used to provide evidence of major home extensions, swimming pools or other assets that could indicate wealth above the levels indicated by a person's tax returns.

With tax returns having fallen off a cliff, the Revenue Commissioners are under increasing pressure to squeeze every last cent owed by taxpayers. Tax collected by the State has fallen from €47.3bn in 2007 down to less than €30bn forecast for this year. Revenue sources have indicated that a variety of tools including Google Earth and social media sites such as Facebook could be used to probe individual cases during an investigation of undeclared income.

The use of Google Earth as a wealth-snooping tool was pioneered by the Greek tax authorities in the wake of the EU/IMF bailout of the country. Greek investigators used the satellite imagery to pinpoint swimming pools in the back gardens of people claiming welfare.

Last week it emerged that some €1.26bn in income tax had been paid in October. This was a drop of 5 per cent when compared with the same month last year. However, overall tax revenues showed signs of stabilising and for once, appeared to be in line with government forecasts.

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