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By Kyle Caldwell.  The Daily Telegraph

The taxman is snooping on households using Google Maps to find out whether your child goes to private school.

It has previously been reported that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) uses Google Maps as a resource to catch tax evaders, but UHY Hacker Young, the national accountancy firm, has disclosed detail on cases where officials have gone to extreme lengths.

The firm said it had examined a case where HMRC employees examined school fetes on signs in parents’ gardens to find out whether their children went to a private or public school, in order to assess whether a person’s lifestyle matches their declared income.

Tax officials also look for major home improvements or numerous or expensive cars parked in the driveway, which could suggest that someone is earning more than they say.

Social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are also trawled to glean further information about their lifestyles.

Roy Maugham, tax partner at UHY Hacker Young, criticised HMRC for resorting to underhand measures as it attempts to recoup the billons of pounds lost each year through non-payments. Last month the tax office said the gap between tax owed and tax paid had increased to £35bn in 2011-2012, up £1bn from the previous year.

This has led HMRC to launch a series of focused campaigns against tax evasion in recent years. Since 2011 revenue inspectors have collected more than £100m.

HMRC currently has 56 taskforces in operation, ranging from the scrap metal trade to restaurants.

“HMRC believe there’s a big discrepancy between what people are earning and what they are declaring, which is driving a massive push to recoup some of the loss,” said Mr Maugham.

“They are using every possible bit of information that the internet is making available, and Google Street View is being seized on as a quick and cheap alternative to visiting someone’s home.”

A spokesman for HMRC said Google Street View plays a small part in its investigations into finding tax cheats.

“We do use Google Street View but our investigations have a greater focus in looking at an individual’s bank account, employment history and the value of their property,” said the spokesperson.

“The vast majority of people and businesses play by the rules, and on their behalf we are coming down hard on the cheats.”