Greek Tax Avoidance 101: Cover Your Swimming Pool With A Tarp, Fool A Satellite

Tyler Durden's picture

No photos or videos of Greek street riots, or burning Athens policemen here. With all the serious discourse over Greek bankruptcy and what not, the general public sometimes ignores the levity of the broader comedy that has brought us here in the first place, i.e. that the Greek government simply sucks at collecting taxes. And no matter how many decrees from above come, this will not change. Case in point: the Guardian reports about the latest tax collection, and immediate ensuing tax avoidance scheme implemented by the Greek government and the Greek wealthy, essentially includes the usage of Google Earth to track those who have swimming pools, cross indexing it with tax collections by address, and catching perpetrators. The loophole - green tarps to fool Google. In other words, good luck IMF.

Vangelis Vasilopoulos is the chief engineer for a company which builds swimming pools in the wealthy northern suburbs of Athens, home to ship-owners and tycoons like Spyros Latsis, one of the richest men in the world, who hosts Prince Charles on his travels to Greece. Industrialist Theodore Angelopoulos and his wife Gianna, who led the organising committee for the Athens Olympic Games (only six years ago, when Greece was heralded a "little nation miracle") are installed there too, as is Mr Papandreou himself.

Mr Vasilopoulos says his company has been "inundated with calls" from residents of such elite residential neighbourhoods as to how to camouflage their swimming pools. At first blush, the requests seem bizarre.

In fact, they stem from the revelation that the Greek finance ministry is using Google Earth software to track down the owners of the pools, which tax inspectors consider an indicator of wealth, and which have often been built illegally.

"There are therefore two reasons to hide one's swimming pool," said a pool-owner who confessed guilt on both counts and, not surprisingly, asked not to be named.

Fortunately for him, however, there is a ingenious solution.

"The formula is simple," said Mr Vasilopoulos. "All you need is a green-coloured cover and then the pool cannot be spotted from above. But if the water is visible, or the netting or cover is blue, then you've had it".

Although even cat and mouse games may be coming to an end.

Despite such inventiveness, even the most determined tax-dodger recognises
that a new era is at hand. And for a country which prides itself on being
the seat of European civilisation, a nation which claims to have exported
the continent's values of democracy, the prospect of having a different way
of life dictated to it is a devastating and humiliating reversal of fortune.

Alas for the Greek, and all their "Club Med" buddies, the cultural de-evolution is on. And sooner or later it is coming to the U.S.

In the meantime, here is a sampling of a "hornets nest" of potential tax evaders in one of Athens wealthiest neighborhoods. And an investent idea as a bonus: go long all Greenwich, CT green tarp-makers.

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tom a taxpayer's picture

Can someone zoom in the air photo so we can see what is happening poolside? 

Oracle of Kypseli's picture

Why taxing pools in the first place? Bitches!

Rusty_Shackleford's picture

Good thing they don't live in the Pennsylvania:

Just saw that on the Lew Rockwell blog.  Wow. 

Ned Zeppelin's picture

Got one of their tax amnesty love notes in the mail for a tax I don't owe for a social security number that is not mine. Nonetheless,  I now have to take the time to persuade them that they have the wrong guy.

PA has terrible budget problems and will be applying Grecian Formula before long.


Cindy_Dies_In_The_End's picture

you gotta give Pa props for creepiness. They should have used the voice from HAL .

Belrev's picture

By this account, the Government of Greece is the most democratic, the most free in the civilized world. Why should people be paying any taxes at all, if all the tax collections go to the pockets of international banking mafia (whose name we dare not pronounce) in the form of interest on debt that did not need to be taken in the first place. What is so bad about the Greece's government lackadaisical attitude towards collecting taxes from its own tribesmen? This is the way it is supposed to be. No taxes. US Constitution never authorized Federal Government to collect an income tax. Only when the Federal Reserve was illegally created did the banking mafia simultaneously push through the taxation of citizenry, so that the interest could be payed for the debts that they then forced upon our people. Greece is the birth place of democracy and that shows.

pan-the-ist's picture

Interesting.  I consider myself rather liberal, but I wonder - how can Greece support their social services if there is no money collected through tax?  It would seem that laws were passed and taxes raised to pay for the social services demanded by the citizens of that country.  The members of society democratically voted and demanded money from the wealthy to pay for it, but the wealthy aren't paying for it.  In a democratic society, these tax dodgers would be thrown into jail and their property confiscated.  Thus, Greece is not a democracy.  (Please note that I am not saying this is right or wrong, but this is why true democracy is 'the tyranny of the majority'.)

Mitchman's picture

ROFLMAO!  Good for them!

albion402's picture

There is always someone figuring a new way to skin the cat. Gotta love this wrinkle.

albion402's picture

There is always someone figuring a new way to skin the cat. Gotta love this wrinkle.

depression's picture

Nice to see Greece is finally going green !

Thank you Al Gore.

AN0NYM0US's picture

"No photos or videos of Greek street riots, or burning Athens policemen here."

For that you need to visit Leo's post

darkpool2's picture

Greece needs its own personal "ash-cloud". Now come to mention it, Santorini was the site of an extremely large volcanic erruption in historical times....Atlantis anyone?  After all Greece should be viewed as a sub-merging economy, so why not literally as well as just figuratively? 

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

The jack booted police look the same no matter where you go in the world.

nonclaim's picture

How long till they wear white like the Imperial Troops?



[by imperial I don't mean the pseudo americam empire wet dream of every imbecile leftist]

Fish Gone Bad's picture

When things get desperate, desperate people do desperate things.  All Greece has to do is offer a reward to people who will turn in a "neighbor" who has a pool.  Bands of people wanting to make some money will skulk around neighborhoods, looking over fences, to find pools and turn people in.

This is pretty low hanging fruit.  Eventually the US will employ a similar tactic to find and punish those employers who hire illegal immigrants.  It is absolutely amazing how cheaply some people can be bought.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

"It is absolutely amazing how cheaply some people can be bought."

The same will happen here in the USA when the rabble are alerted to those bad investors. Especially if you first indoctrinate the population about the evils of those scum sucking investors who have all the wealth. You know the type. Like your Mom with the $40k IRA who's taking RMDs or the brother-in-law with the $35K 401(k) rollover or your sister who is ready to retire and has to live on the 2% she gets on her $300k in CD's.

Those scum sucking investors. Blankfien and company are off limits and live in gated communities. Better to go after the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker.

sethstorm's picture

The problem is that those gated communities are quite vulnerable.  For each of those gated community folk, there are people that work for them whom would be easier to turn(e.g. be bought as ears & eyes).  Secondly, while some of those places are indeed well-staffed and well-armed, most of them aren't prepared for an overwhelming military/law-enforcement presence from air, land and water.  They really can't win unless you count them buying favors to keep the rabble away(and that is somewhat limited).

Despite being gated communities, there is plenty of hardware, people, and know-how that will not be in their favor. Some of it might, but given the right incentives, the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker won't be on the side of the gated community. 


masterinchancery's picture

Under Obama, you mean punish employers who DONT hire illegal immigrants.

sethstorm's picture

Well, they're a way to get around legitimate market forces when you can't send the work offshore.  The appeal is universal to the parts of business unwilling to compete in the labor market.



Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Of course, Google Earth gives the user the ability to scan older photos if they were taken. I can look at my house over the past 8 years at 4 different times. The Greeks are supposed to indicate on their income tax form if they own a swimming pool. An article I read said something like 400 people in Athens checked the box but satellite estimates indicate the number is north of 16,000.


billwilson's picture

Yup, It took me about 5 minutes on Google earth to count 400 swimming pools in North Athens alone.


Fix It Again Timmy's picture

Well, we know that there are at least 400 dummies in Greece...

dumpster's picture

tarps are now taxed at max  strategic cover .for homeless




duo's picture

When I was in Greece a few years ago it was explained to me why most houses in the countryside had an unfinished 2nd floor.  Supposedly, houses under construction were taxed differently than finished houses, so as long as you went up on the roof once a week and laid a brick, you could game the system.


This may be BS, but it would explain all the unfinished 2nd stories on nearly every house we drove by.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

That's the way I heard it from a Greek with a big family back home that I worked with a few years back. He said you never ever finish construction. Never.

CD's picture

The same can (or could) be observed in several other countries on the Balkan peninsula, Croatia and Montenegro definitely had this in the late 90's/ early 00's.

The larger problem of tax evasion/grey economy is the self-reinforcing loop - ever more slip out of paying, gov't ratchets up taxes, those on fixed (gov't) salaries protest b/c they have no way to evade similarly, their wages go up, deficit widens, taxes need to go up again, even more 'entrepreneurs' evade, etc. you get the point. A sad story present in many/most post-Soviet countries in the area (further to the north) as well.

While never getting to the level of sophistication of Enron/current Wall St. in terms of accounting shenanigans, almost every single small business in the region is 'in the red' on paper, or yielding enough for its owners to claim minimum-wage incomes - who the hell is willing to pay 40%+ income tax, 60%+ payroll/Medicare/SocSec tax? In theory, the $100 put up by the employer would literally be reduced to $25 or less in pocket of employee. Doesn't make it right (evasion or gov't profligacy), but makes it little easier to understand the folks on the streets if their system is anything like what I saw in other 'social democratic' systems.

ambrosiac's picture


The same has been observed in California.  One of my neighbors in the San Rafael area in Pasadena had been building (by himself) his house for a number of years.  As long as he was showing progress it was fully lawful.  He has saved quite a bit in taxes.

Strider's picture

 LLoyd Blankfein: Wall Street's Hitler

Coming to Kindle soon.

Anybody up to writing it?



Cognitive Dissonance's picture

It's writing itself on a daily basis. Just pick up a copy of the NYT, WSJ, Washington Post or the FT. It just needs to be compiled and translated.

Oracle of Kypseli's picture

I am reposting the anagram of his name.

Idyll Bank Felon

Cursive's picture

The anagram generator does not lie.  IT DOES NOT LIE!

MacedonianGlory's picture

Many of these pools are properties of off-shore companies and can not be taxed in Greece. In fancy suburbs there are pools. Some owner declared them to the Greek IRS as water deposits in case of fire as the fancy suburbs are constracted in former forest area.

But the complete stupid thing is that The Greek taxmen use GoogleEarth to detect pools instead of the legitimate National Military Servise that takes aerophotographs every 6 months.

Hephasteus's picture

This is funny. When I lived in florida for a short few months. They had airplanes flying constantly taking pictures of peoples properties to scan and match up with sophisticated real estate valuation software in order to get more tax revenue. Every state was hooked on the increased property taxes that the bubble produced. And every one of them are slow to reduce the taxes.

This is just another version of what happened globably that created our hyper huge governments who will lay off millions this year and next.

doublethink's picture


ATHENS — In the wealthy, northern suburbs of this city, where summer temperatures often hit the high 90s, just 324 residents checked the box on their tax returns admitting that they owned pools.


So tax investigators studied satellite photos of the area — a sprawling collection of expensive villas tucked behind tall gates — and came back with a decidedly different number: 16,974 pools.


Various studies, including one by the Federation of Greek Industries last year, have estimated that the government may be losing as much as $30 billion a year to tax evasion...


Quantum Noise's picture

This is awesome: out of 16,974 pools, only 324 were declared. Slightly over 2%. You kinda feel bad for the 324 morons.

Dirtt's picture

If we just cut out the bullshit tax codes.   Flat tax or consumption tax. Period. No exemptions. No loopholes. No IRS. No tax attorneys.  No cheating.


One tax. And everyone pays it.

Grand Supercycle's picture


DOW chart shows an expanding wedge indicating a significant move is probable.


ambrosiac's picture


Of course a historical first, aerial photography catching out B. Streisand, created the notorious Streisand effect,



"show me that you are no fool/ walk across my swimming pool"


Cognitive Dissonance's picture


"Jesus Christ Superstar - King Herod's Song (Try It And See)"

Starting at 1:12 mark

ApplesConspiracy's picture

If I recall correctly, sattelite images used on google maps are up to 2 years old, not real time.


So this whole tarp scheme wouldn't really work for them.

Calculated_Risk's picture

They've been doing this in AZ for years... they've been checking real estate

records against satalite photos for home additions. They've also been

overlaying old photos with new photos for such additions. Then check to see

if they had a permit. If not, they'll be getting a nice fine, and tax bill.