Lithuania Uses Google’s Street View to Catch Tax Violators

| by Lauren Schiff
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When Google started mapping street views throughout Lithuania, government tax officials saw a prime opportunity. 

Tax collectors perused the streets of Lithuania via their new, easily-accessible cyber shots, “uncovering dozens of alleged tax violations involving housing construction and property sales,” says the Boston Globe. Because officials now have the opportunity to flip through a vast number of recorded residences, they are able to not only find homes that are not otherwise recorded, but they can also be particular about where exactly to send out agents, thus saving a great deal of time as well.

Modestas Kaseliauskas, head of the State Tax Authority, says the government group was “very impressed. We realized that we could do more with less and in shorter time." Thus far, they’ve found “100 homeowners and 30 construction companies” that they suspect have been dodging their taxes, reports The Verge.

The Lithuanian government has utilized this modern tool to uncover quite a bit of trouble. “Two recent cases netted $130,000 in taxes and penalties after investigators found houses photographed by Google that weren't on official maps,” writes Yahoo!. Because of this wealth of success, officials say they’ll additionally be using the technology to go through records from the past two years in order to nab prior violations.

Lithuania “remains one of the poorest countries in the European Union,” says Yahoo!, so in that respect, the use of Google Maps has been an enormous help. "We were pressured to increase tax revenue," says Kaseliauskas. Other member nations of the EU have in the past expressed concern over the presence of Google in their countries, worrying about lack of privacy.

A lawyer at the Human Rights Monitoring Institute in Vilnius comments on this potential invasion of privacy, noting that if officials “were using [Google Maps Street View] as the sole tool, then it could possibly be qualified as a violation. But in this case it's just using a modern resource." 

We’re sure all of the former under-the-radar citizens may have a different opinion.

Sources: Boston Globe, Yahoo!, The Verge