That Time Greek Authorities Caught Tax Evasion With Satellite Photos

Samuel Reason - August 26th, 2020

Due to Greece’s ever-looming bankruptcy concerns, authorities started to take a different approach for tracking down tax evaders. And it started with swimming pools. Looking at tax returns they spotted only 400 residents of Athens reported having a swimming pool. But after taking satellite photos they estimated that over 12,000 residents had swimming pools! As a result, the tax authorities started to take regular satellite photos to catch tax evasion.

The tax-evading from Greece’s ultra-rich is usually quite bold, they don’t seem to care who notices. For example, when over 150 doctors from some of the top private clinics were surveyed, they claimed their incomes were under $40,000. And there was even some claiming they made less than $13,000 – which would be a figure that exempts them from paying any tax.

Ilias Plaskovitis, the general secretary of the time, advised that such income levels were simply unbelievable for the sectors they worked in. And that is when the plans to catch the liars went into action, such as scanning for houses with swimming pools. He also put in place checks that could figure out if their income levels were impossible, given the rents of neighborhoods where the doctors were living.

As he dug deeper into the analysis, the new finance minister discovered there were some wealthy individuals with several houses and boats. Still, they claimed to have income levels that exempt them from paying any tax. Given the amount of money required to operate a yacht and several countryside residents, this seemed highly unlikely.

Reports showed that only a handful of Greek citizens report income over $132,000 every year. However, we find signs of wealth and luxury in every corner. Very strange. It is yet to be known if the satellite picture led to catching tax fraud. Though one has to ask if so many people are under-reporting their income in Greece, maybe the tax system as a whole is at fault.

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