14 Oct 2014

Argentina uses drones to tackle tax

Argentina is taking a 21st century approach to tackling tax evasion by using drones to seek out offenders. Military-style eyes in the sky are hovering over the capital Buenos Aires to spot wealthy evaders who have not declared mansions and swimming pools.

Drones took photos of houses on lots listed as vacant in an area about ten miles south of the city centre. More than 200 homes and 100 swimming pools that had not been listed on tax returns were discovered.

The drones cost around $10,000 each and mark a new phase in government efforts to stamp on tax evasion. Rumbled owners can now expect heavy financial penalties.

It’s estimated that the drones uncovered tax evasion worth about US$2 million, a seemingly small amount for the investment but Argentina’s embattled regime is chasing every dollar it can get as it copes with a plunging economy, soaring inflation and a sliding currency.

Tax revenue increased by 37.5 per cent last month from a year earlier to around US$11.7 billion. But with inflation running at around 40 per cent, consumer price rises seem to account for most of this.

Buenos Aires is also embroiled in a row with US creditors that has sparked a debt default. The country’s central bank governor, Juan Carlos Fabrega, resigned earlier this month after just a year in office. He had presided over an 18 per cent devaluation in the peso in January.

Meanwhile, the head of Argentina’s tax agency has been handed a disc by the French government containing information on 3,900 undeclared bank accounts belonging to Argentine citizens at the Swiss branch of HSBC. Head of Argentina's AFIP tax agency, Ricardo Echegaray, suggested these account holders could now face heavy penalties.