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Google street cameras & HMRC ?

Google street cameras & HMRC ?

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There's a report in The Times [here's a link: ] where a spokesman for HMRC said: “No tax inquiry would commence purely on the basis of information from Street View — identifying cases for possible inquiry is a very sophisticated process.”

It added: “The [Connect ?] computer system brings together unprecedented volumes of data, which our tax specialists and analysts are constantly evaluating for evidence of evasion, to identify those who are determined to cheat the UK of vital tax revenue. The vast majority of people and businesses play by the rules and on their behalf we are coming down hard on the cheats.”

Question: Have any AWEB readers had any experience of this sort of thing happening, please ? 

Replies (15)

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By cathygrimmer
23rd Nov 2013 09:13

Technological advance on old methods

I wouldn't be surprised. I used to know an Inspector who would walk around the more affluent area of his home town noting down who had built an extension, bought a Ferrari or caravan etc and then check their records ta the office to see if they seemed to be declaring sufficent income to pay for them!


[email protected]

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Replying to edwardcgreen:
By ACDWebb
23rd Nov 2013 10:47

Sounds like

cathygrimmer wrote:

I wouldn't be surprised. I used to know an Inspector who would walk around the more affluent area of his home town noting down who had built an extension, bought a Ferrari or caravan etc and then check their records ta the office to see if they seemed to be declaring sufficent income to pay for them!


[email protected]

,,, one I knew. Out with a camera & notebook every weekend. Plus ca change
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David Winch
By David Winch
23rd Nov 2013 11:28

Available information
I know that police financial investigators routinely use information available on the internet. That includes street view as well as, for example, zoopla.

Wouldn't be a surprise if HMRC do the same.


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Glenn Martin
By Glenn Martin
23rd Nov 2013 14:07

Have first hand experience of this.
Have seen HMRC produce an ebay advert of an expensive car a client had sold (his ebay account was not obvious to be the clients name) also seen google maps produced for an overseas investment property someone owned.

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Jennifer Adams
By Jennifer Adams
23rd Nov 2013 14:20

Inspectors when Wimbledon is on...

None of my clients have been subjected to this but I would submit that it is early days yet. Here is an article you might be interested in - it was written at the beginning of the year and discussed the known methods HMRC use to glean information - at that time.

This is the bit that kind of 'matches' (sorry!) the Google method of investigation. 

On foot -  during Wimbledon fortnight, HMRC investigation teams apparently knock door-to-door to ascertain whether homes have been rented out or are being used as unofficial boarding houses. This information is then retained and checked when the property is finally sold.

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By DMGbus
25th Nov 2013 08:34

Nothing new

The use of publicly available information is nothing new, all that has changed is that in the digital world the old information plus more is now available at the desktop without diligent local tax inspectors feeling the need to drive past taxpayers' homes and see what sort of house they might have sustained on modest earnings.

I recall that several decades ago a motor repairer had a tax enquiry - as a result of HMRC seeing his vehicle recovery from accidents advert in Yellow Pages - an activity which it turned out was omitted from his declared profits (plus the repair of insurance write-offs also carefully omitted).

On the other hand "reliable" information (returns of fees paid by head office) to a slimming franchise self-employed person turned out to be unreliable and tax enquiry closed without adjustment of profits, but not before HMRC chose to investigate her husband's architect accounts (again no adjustment to profits) where no doubt his list of clients gave HMRC an insight into life styles of local taxpayers.

Modern day tax enquiries will, in my experience, most often make use of client's website information.   No problem for me with this, taxpayers should be honest and careful with what they publish (like a vehicle spare parts dealer who advertised "a million pounds worth" of stock available when his accounts showed a quarter of that figure - but OK, he explained his figures were at dealer selling prices rather than his grey-import prices).



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By JCresswellTax
25th Nov 2013 10:05

And so they should

They should use any means possible to identify and catch tax evaders!

I have to pay my tax, why should they be different.

All I would say is I wish they would embrace the technology in the same way to make our job easier!

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By codling
25th Nov 2013 13:52

It can go wrong for HMRC

A friend of mine ran a chip shop and was investigated by HMRC. At the meeting he was asked how many covers he did. He replied that he did not do any as he was a take away fish and chip shop only.

HMRC did not believe him as he had been there to have a look.

My friend advised him that 2 doors away from his takeaway his brother ran a fish and chip cafe.

Collapse of stout party and investigation closed with apologies.


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By asillahi
27th Nov 2013 11:42

How come so many people keep getting away with not registering then? They can't be that sophisticated. I bet there are plenty of businesses in B'ham not registered and all they would have to do is go down any of the really busy streets and check against their records. There is still a huge amount of under/non declaration.

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By Mark Three
27th Nov 2013 12:03

HMRC hits what it sees

and what it sees are returns submitted etc.  I am not convinced they spend much time finding people who are off the radar.  I was surprised that some benefits claimants in Manchester had been caught by RTI, as they hadn't declared their PAYE income fully.

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By listerramjet
27th Nov 2013 12:06

OK but

street view is static point in time data - not sure it tells you when it was taken.  But very useful for lots of things - don't see why HMRC shouldn't attempt to live in the 21st century!

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By The Black Knight
27th Nov 2013 12:22

have been known

Have been known to use Ariel photographs in business use of land for CGT purposes, builders yards etc.

Why wouldn't you use all the information available although HMRC often have information that is incorrect or has mislead them.(from experian too).

Convincing them that their information is unreliable is the fun bit these people believe what ever they are told by their department.

Which is why they miss the serious evaders and hone in on no tax to be found cases.

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By Briar
27th Nov 2013 15:17

I use it!

I use it when potential new clients approach me. It's very useful and helps me form a view. Why shouldn't HMRC do the same?

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By The Black Knight
27th Nov 2013 16:26

fantastic tool

Fantastic tool for seeing what is nickable and planning escape routes.

don't even have to waste your petrol.

Very out of date for motors but garden ornaments should be fine.

my neighbours plant pots are still there in the photos, I witnessed them getting nicked as well.

Action? yep you guessed it, couldn't be bothered.



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By ukequus
28th Nov 2013 10:31

Can be useful - did anti-fraud for a housing association recently and one of the properties helpfully had a To Let sign outside it on Streetview.  (Breach of lease to let most HA properties).  Unlucky.   But why not use whatever is available to catch those who take advantage?

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