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Government Privacy The Almighty Buck

Drones Reveal Widespread Tax Evasion In Argentina 208

Tailhook (98486) writes "The Argentine government has used drones to reveal 200 homes and 100 pools in an upper class area about ten miles south of Buenos Aires that had not been detailed on tax returns. Tax officials said the drones took pictures of luxury houses standing on lots registered as empty. The evasions found by the drones amounted to missing tax payments of more than $2 million and owners of the properties have been warned they now face large fines."
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Drones Reveal Widespread Tax Evasion In Argentina

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  • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Thursday September 25, 2014 @02:48PM (#47996147) Homepage Journal

    But A. this isn't the US with a 4th amendment, and B. There's nothing invasive about doing standard surveying work automatically.

    • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Thursday September 25, 2014 @02:51PM (#47996185)

      In the US, this would be "Google Maps Reveals Widespread Tax Evasion"

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Virtucon ( 127420 )

        Google Street View, Google Satellite View are all now being used by lazy local governments.

        • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Thursday September 25, 2014 @03:34PM (#47996673) Homepage

          Wordprocessors are used by lazy typists and compilers are used by lazy programmers.

        • by aardvarkjoe ( 156801 ) on Thursday September 25, 2014 @03:34PM (#47996683)

          Google Street View, Google Satellite View are all now being used by lazy local governments.

          A rare example of governments using a cheap, effective method to do their jobs rather than finding an expensive and inefficient way to do it.

          • Its stale. I've got news for you Google Street View and Satellite images can be years old. If I were relying on it for up to date information then I'd be mistaken. My house on street view was taken in 2010. A lot has changed since then.

            • Its stale. I've got news for you Google Street View and Satellite images can be years old. If I were relying on it for up to date information then I'd be mistaken. My house on street view was taken in 2010. A lot has changed since then.

              How much is that more-up-to-date information worth to you?

              Depending on what the government is using it for, using street view or maps images may or may not be effective. A blanket statement characterizing it as "lazy" doesn't make sense until you have determined whether or not the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

              • In the case of Argentina it sounds like they're flat out lazy. How can you not see a house built on a lot that was supposedly vacant? You have to plat the lot, take out permits presumably and then have inspections. Maybe in Argentina they don't have building codes? I doubt that but somebody isn't doing their job. In the US my google satellite view of my house shows a car I sold 7 years ago. Time to buy camo tenting and drape it over every square inch of my exposed yard area, or at least where I'd par

                • In the case of Argentina it sounds like they're flat out lazy. How can you not see a house built on a lot that was supposedly vacant? You have to plat the lot, take out permits presumably and then have inspections. Maybe in Argentina they don't have building codes? I doubt that but somebody isn't doing their job.

                  In the case of Argentina, they're not using Google Maps (etc.) They're going out and taking pictures of the property, getting timely evidence. That's what the whole article is about -- them using drones to do their job.

                  Lazy is when now during re-appraisals (which we go through annually here) means that they have to have an up to date photo of the property to assess "condition" We caught them last year using a 6 year old Google Street View image. That's lazy and I already pay well enough for these morons to just drive around and get up to date information, it's in the tax law for my state and we caught them not doing their job.

                  If they legally need a photo less than a year old, and they're instead grabbing photos off of Google, then yes, they're using Google inappropriately, and it's fair to call it lazy.

                • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

                  Just plain nuts. The road and footpath out the front that provides access to your property. The sewerage system that removes the shite you produce. The stormwater system that keeps your property from being flooded. Access for communications systems. Emergency services including police and fire brigade. Schools, apparently you need some education. Local taxes versus Federal 'income' taxes. Some sort of planning control to prevent neighbouring property being turned into a dump. I gather you want everyone els

          • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

            Is it really? You can probably buy satellite images pretty cheap today. Or you could just rent a plane and a pilot. If the area is large enough it would probably both faster and cheaper than using an RC quadcopter.

          • by snsh ( 968808 )

            Since the 1990's cities have had their own street-view like platforms. Both the data-collection and the UI were not nearly as refined as street-view is today. Cities would pay to have vans photograph the streets every couple of years. The vans had only 1 or 2 cameras, and the Windows software was crude and hard to use, but still saved a lot of time compared to dispatching an inspector to check for things like newly installed decks, carports, and sheds.

        • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Thursday September 25, 2014 @04:02PM (#47997005)

          Yea, I kinda want a 20x30 rollup "roof" or "pool" that I can put out on poles or roll out on the ground.

          Then put them away after google shows I've added a room or pool.

          he he.

      • by Cyberdyne ( 104305 ) * on Thursday September 25, 2014 @03:54PM (#47996915) Journal

        In the US, this would be "Google Maps Reveals Widespread Tax Evasion"

        In the UK, even before Google got in there, the government was using spy satellites to check on things like farm subsidies: when a farm submits a claim saying there's a 100 acre patch empty (to claim "setaside" payments) or has a highly subsidised crop growing, it's quick and easy to check a satellite photo and know if it's really only 90 acres - or if only the strip nearest the road is as claimed, with a big patch of some more profitable crop hidden inside. Compared to the cost of sending someone there by car to inspect the whole field on foot, using satellites (which of course they had in orbit anyway, for more predictable purposes) apparently it saved a fortune.

      • No, I think in the US this *WILL BE*
        "FBI, IRS, ATF, State DMV's, DHS, DEA, and ICE use drones to reveal criminal activities of 25% of the population, resulting in the remaining 75% being under even closer scrutiny."

    • a) Their constitution is based on ours. b) It's not really standard surveying work when it is targeting a specific area to collect money from tax evaders with drones and it is most certainly invasive if they are comparing it against people's tax documents.
      • by TWX ( 665546 )

        a) Their constitution is based on ours. b) It's not really standard surveying work when it is targeting a specific area to collect money from tax evaders with drones and it is most certainly invasive if they are comparing it against people's tax documents.

        It falls into rules governing being in plain sight. In the United States, cities and counties use Google Maps and other aerial surveillance to look for nonpermitted structures and other construction that hasn't properly been paid for. If I were to put u

      • by EvilSS ( 557649 )

        a) Their constitution is based on ours. b) It's not really standard surveying work when it is targeting a specific area to collect money from tax evaders with drones and it is most certainly invasive if they are comparing it against people's tax documents.

        You do know that state and county governments in the US have been using aerial photography to help validate tax records for decades now, right? Where do you think Google got all those aerial shots in the early days of Google Earth? The only news here is "...with a drone!!"

    • by Tailhook ( 98486 )

      But but but Drones! Government Drones!!!1

      Nailing rich people though........ I bet this particular case of government drones gathering intelligence on citizens gets a pass. Because on Slashdot, the only thing worse than rich people are their corporations. This site came to mind pretty fast when I spotted this story.

      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

        Yeah, why aren't they taking on all the poor people buying vacant lots and building houses with pools on them?

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday September 25, 2014 @03:20PM (#47996499) Homepage Journal

      FYI, this came up many years ago in the US. Defendants challenged the admissibility of evidence from aerial observations. The courts pretty much held that since the police are allowed to fly helicopters and airplanes over your house, anything that they observe while doing so is admissible under the 4th Amendment.

      The basic rule for criminal evidence is that the cops can make observations from anyplace they're allowed to be. If they're standing on a sidewalk and see a marijuana plant in your front window, that's probable cause. Same if they walk up to your front door. They can look around any non-fenced areas on your property too. They can't stand in the bushes and peek through your windows, unless they have some other business being there (hint: do not have a burglar alarm if you're growing weed anywhere someone can see it through a window).

      So if the cops can see your mj plants (or pool) from the air or some unfenced part of your yard, you're toast.

      The rules for adminsitrative searches (e.g. code enforcement or tax enforcement) are much more lenient than criminal searches. Administrative searches often don't require a warrant, or if they do the warrants are much easier to obtain.

      • And many agencies pay finders' fees for recovery of due assets. Perhaps a survey by private drone could yield quite a few tax violators and provide a living for those that hunt them down. Consider them modern bounty hunters.
    • Even in the US, this is justified and I have no problem with it. There is no expectation of privacy when you build a house. I'm on the tax rolls. I expect my neighbors to be on the tax rolls too. That's how it works. Civil disobedience? No. This isn't Rosa Parks sitting in the front of a bus. This is a bunch of rich people cheating. Nothing to see here, move along.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday September 25, 2014 @02:59PM (#47996275) Homepage Journal

    Only they were using aerial, then later satellite photos. We scanned the aerials, orthorectified them then registered them in a coordinate system for the city's GIS. They'd overlay a lot map and go plot by plot looking for pools, decks, and additions that weren't in the property tax database. These were mostly wealthy towns in Connecticut where this stuff added up to real money.

    Now of course you can do that with Google Maps, if you don't mind waiting 1-3 years to catch people.

    Just because you do *exactly the same thing* with a slightly different tool doesn't make it new. Back from those days one of the senior managers used to come into my office and say, "I just read about this patent where --" and I'd cut him off right there.

    "This isn't going to be another one of those things where they take something people have been doing for ages with LORAN and substitute GPS, is it?" I ask.

    "Well..."

    "I don't want to hear about it. Whatever it is the patent is sure not to stand up to scrutiny, but I still don't want them holding treble damages over our head."

    • Orthorectified 'em? Nearly killed 'em!

  • Maybe someone on a motorcycle could more cost effectively go around checking on empty vs developed lots? Sure, they might not see the pool out back, but the house might be hard to hide.

    • You can check a lot more houses faster with a drone. Like, look at an aeriel photograph vs. one taken from a car and see how many houses you can count.

      Also like you said, with a drone you can see backyard pools.

      • by DaHat ( 247651 )

        *banging head on wall with everybody calling these things 'drones'*

        Not just any aeriel photography... manned vs not.

        This is simply a modern and more cost effective way of doing what has been done for ages.

        It used to be you'd pay someone (for their time & fuel) to fly a manned helicopter or airplane over a given area and have to deal with possibly remote takeoff/landing locations as well as noise over your target... now you simply pay a guy with a van to park on a public street, launch a UAV and fly it o

    • We are talking Argentina here. If the building is a couple miles from the property line on a private, gated road the motorcyclist may not see it. A 'lot' could be very large.

  • Bah (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    So what if drones are doing it vs satellite or photos from a plane with a human at the controls.

    In Lee County, Florida(and I'm sure others) they take 20+ aerial photographs a year, from above, N, E,S, and West 'birds eye', AND hire people to look for violations, New Roof, Fence, pool, WHATEVER? from previous years? Is there a permit issued? If not, send in the tax collectors... They also go after people with lawns that are too long, etc.

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      I assume they do the same thing almost everywhere. The only difference is how the pictures are used. Enforcing building codes, checking for illegal crops, whatever. The fact that this locality used drones is not especially interesting, a guy in a small plane could probably have covered the same area faster and cheaper.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 25, 2014 @03:08PM (#47996385)

    I bet most of these houses belongs to people somewhat related to government itself, and the thing will be forgotten as soon as possible.

  • by slimshady76 ( 3752059 ) on Thursday September 25, 2014 @03:27PM (#47996591)
    Argentinian here, the AFIP (our local IRS) has been doing this for a long time, but using satellite or aerial photographs. The drones were used this time because the area in question was small. A lot of country clubs (as they are called here) are emerging with wealthy people moving into them, building expensive houses, while the land is still declared as vacant. In a related matter, we still lack a law regulating drones down here.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Funny note, Argentina's AFIP (IRS) director, had a 82x (yes, 82 times) increment on his wealth since he started working for the government.

  • by Rotten ( 8785 ) on Thursday September 25, 2014 @03:28PM (#47996601) Journal

    That's a drone i would love to see flying.

    In Argentina we have drones watching general population private property for tax declarations.

    We got camera domes on most corners, but nobody is monitoring them, and certainly not even police cars to dispatch to those locations.

    We got a vice president who evaded taxes, declare nonexistant addresses, but nobody cares.

    We had a commerce secretary -a real character, funny guy- he intimidated people -mafia like-, got taped and nothing happened.

    We got a gunpoint robber, got caught on GoPro by the victim, he's not in jail, he's on the TV, he's a rockstar now.

    We got some official car (senator) drivers that got caught trafficking cocaine....rofl, nothing happened.

    We even got a NGO for human rights with more than 5000 bouncing checks, but it's not so NGO since it's heavly sponsored by the government, and those bouncing checks - for some reason - never got into the credit rating system (magic!)

    We got a spike on meth precursors for 2 or 3 years, (10x efedrin imports from 6 tons to 60 tons) and the permits for that trace back to phone lines to the presidential building! yay! way to go Argentina, nothing happened besides 3 witnesses got killed -executed- and...yay! nothing happened!

    We got no radars guarding our borders, the only smuggling small planes we know about, are those that crash land from time to time.

    So, there's nothing new in a drone/plane/satellite catching tax evasion. I want the corruption spotting drone. That would make "news for nerds" or "stuff that matters".

    • It sounds like you guys have already done pretty good at spotting the corruption. Now you need anti-corruption missiles...I mean legal action.

    • by WrongMonkey ( 1027334 ) on Thursday September 25, 2014 @04:10PM (#47997101)
      I don't see how drones would help since the it sounds like the corruption has already been reveal. The citizens just need to decide how they're going to deal with it.
    • Nice idea, but . . .

      The hard disks containing the evidence from the drones would crash.

      Along with all the hard disks of any computers containing email referencing evidence from the drones.

      And all the backup tapes would be "recycled".

      And the person in charge would drop her pants, moon the government, invoke the 5th Amendment, and invite the government to kiss her hairy ass.

      Oh, and she gets early retirement and a juicy taxpayer funded pension, too.

    • they don't solve all of your problems?

      Because this is what your post is boiling down to as far as I can tell.

      • by Rotten ( 8785 )

        There was a time, a long time ago, that irony and sarcasm were a day to day practice in Slashdot.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      And this is how dictators get power and military takeovers happen.
      The current government is so bad that the people figure any change might be better.

      I would say that you need some good people to run for office but if they did they might end up in jail or worse.

      Don't worry I am sure that the current government will tell everyone that it is the fault of the British and start a new war soon.

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Thursday September 25, 2014 @04:02PM (#47997007) Homepage Journal

    Basically everyone who's not a government official in the country needs three things.

    Food, water, air.

    Everything else is a "luxury item" and the government's committed to taxing people until they can no longer afford anything but the basic three things.

  • Round here, $2M is what politicians blow on nose candy of a Friday night.

  • Since it wasn't mentioned in the article, the neighbourhood in question is Nuevo Quilmes.

    Google's satellite imagery indeed shows some very low density housing. I guess we're talking the mega-rich who moved out of Recoleta.

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