More Than a Map – Property Management Methods Enhancing Tax Modernization


raber 1The quest for a sustainable and transparent approach to managing property records in Latin America has been challenging. A variety of approaches have been employed yet most yield little results for generating accurate, fair and consistent tax revenue. México is one country that is implementing social reforms to modernize processes in property appraisals, land registration, invoicing alternatives, and tax collection. With an emphasis on creating, assessing, and collecting tax revenue effectively, the focus has shifted from a cartographic map product, to a multi-purpose information management approach.

Situational Assessment
For decades, municipalities have tried to address the problem of maintaining property and tax records. Commonly known as a Cadastre, the challenge of creating and updating an official register of location, value, and ownership of land tenure to apportion taxes has been difficult.

Most efforts have focused on mapping to cartographically illustrate property boundaries, buildings, hydrography, landforms and related features indicating physical evidence of land division. Once the map was created, a relation to the tax registry database was made. In some cases a geographic information system (GIS) was used to automate and store the information.

Parcel data superimposed on 3D city model

Parcel data superimposed on 3D city model

Problems associated with the “map approach” vary and include the process taking too long, technical errors, and incomplete information. Even if the map was done correctly, goals of valuation, tax billing and collection were not addressed.

Additionally, many GIS systems fall short of an enterprise approach that includes property registration, transactional cartographic/database editing, transparent valuation, billing and collection, and other analytics allowing organizations to generate sustainable tax revenue.

Successful Approaches for Tax Modernization

With pressure to generate consistent tax revenue the emphasis of cadastral projects is changing. Merrick is now using a variety of strategies in México to leverage existing cadastre and tax records when possible to customize technology solutions that optimize the investment being made. This changes the focus from mapping to an integrated property management approach. Moreover, clients are getting more comfortable with the wide range of geomatics technologies to improve data reliability and results including: mobile and airborne LiDAR, 360̊ mobile photography, digital photography, 2D compilation, UAVs, 3D city modeling, and web-based software applications. The two examples below use various combinations of technologies to complete their tax programs.

Phase one of the program began when the University of Tamaulipas and Merrick created a proto-type cartographic base map using airborne LiDAR and digital photography. Merrick’s CadastrePro demonstrated the benefits of normalizing land tenure records using a common platform. DigitalGlobe’s BASEMAP+VIVID (formally ACC) created a state-wide 50cm orthomosaic for 30,984 square miles. Ciudad Victoria and Güemez were representative examples of cities with records in different conditions.

Phase two installed CadastrePro in the major municipalities, “normalized and cleaned” tax databases, and trained users on the workflow and software. The next phase is updating cartography using photogrammetric methodologies, then linking the new cartography with tax databases. This project has been successful and was awarded the 2015 Project of the year for Land Management at the Latin America Geospatial Forum in Mexico City.

Raber 3The Municipality of Torreón covers about 752 square miles in Coahuila State, México and is experiencing a resurgence in its economy. A well-defined use of 3D geospatial applications is critical to planning, tax collection, decision support, and managing government services required to sustain growth. To accomplish a multi-purpose cadastre Torreón selected Merrick to develop a multi-source 3D strategy, CadastrePro solution, and customized workflows to achieve their goals. Merrick integrated Hexagon’s SmartClient and GeoMedia 3D/Professional to deliver their solution including a Spanish user interface, web portal, and cartographic/database functionality.

The fusion of airborne and mobile LiDAR point clouds, and 10cm color digital orthos created a 3D city model. One unique capability of the mobile LiDAR and 360̊ imagery now allows property data input to occur in a controlled office environment instead of the field, thus eliminating a source of mis-information that could influence the valuation process.

Torreón is also leveraging the 3D data for public works, resilience city, and urban planning applications that support their growing municipality. This multi-purpose data solution and business assisted the municipality to justify the project funding and create a positive return on investment.


Building geometry defined by fusing mobile and airborne lidar

Building geometry defined by fusing mobile and airborne lidar

As federal funds to municipalities continue to decline due to the international financial situation and low oil prices, México and other Latin America countries are now realizing the value of multi-purpose cadastral and 3D point cloud data. Participating in cadastral projects using advanced geomatics technologies are being made easier because these programs are now showing a positive return on investment by changing the focus from a map to a management solution. By taking advantage of customized data solutions using geomatics technologies, the two examples above are now increasing tax revenue over 30% from previous years (without increasing the tax levy), and are realizing a verifiable return on their investment from the tax modernization efforts.


Brian R. Raber, CMS, GISP, GLS
Vice President, Merrick & Company
President, Merrick Mexico and Merrick Colombia




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