Tax Assessors Using Google Earth

Someone just told me an interesting story which happened to a friend of his. His friend got a call from a tax assessor asking him to pay property taxes and fines. His friend contacted the assessor and they produced photos of his property showing where he had built new structures on his property without permits or reporting a change in value to his property. Where did the photos come from? Google Earth!
So, I guess there are other avenues of doing business with Google Earth I hadn’t considered. However, before people get too upset at Google about this. Please consider that most counties and state governments already have access to aerial photography through state-run GIS systems if they choose to use it. Google Earth might be a bit easier to use though. The new ArcGIS Explorer browser ESRI is planning to release next January will make it even easier for tax assessors to spot property tax violations since it works in tangent with GIS databases.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. Maybe it’s time to start building underground!

  2. Jill Madson says:

    ESRI won’t be charging people $400 do use their software in a commercial way.

  3. Since the mid 90’s the European Union has been using remote sensing satellites to track, amongst other things, acreage of land used for some 500 million olive trees. Subsidies to the farmers are based on the number of trees and some farmers were perhaps overestimating.

  4. That’s great. Google earth will now help tax collectors collect taxes more conveniently. Happy tax collection with google earth lol

  5. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s a cheap way for local assessors to verify the veracity of property tax payers, and the OP is right… it’s a fairly common practice to use aerial photos the same way. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to go after property owners for failing to declare whole structures.

  6. It amazed me what technology can do these days. I agreed with Kenny that I don’t think it is unreasonable for tax assessor to demand extra taxes from property owners for failing to declare the extra new structures he/she built.

  7. When I used to be an appraiser it was so common to have improvements to a property that weren’t listed on the property card. I guess this practice will be harder to hide. Pay for the permit because you don’t want to be forced to tear it down.

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