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30 Aug, 2022 11:26

French officials using AI to tax private pools

Authorities took in an additional $10mn in tax revenue amid severe drought across the country
French officials using AI to tax private pools

Tax officials in France are using a new AI program to find thousands of undeclared private swimming pools and have reportedly generated $10 million in additional tax revenue thanks to the technology.

France’s Directorate General of Public Finances (DGFiP) told AFP on Monday that during a year-long beta phase AI uncovered 20,356 previously-undeclared swimming pools in nine French departments. The program will now be extended across the country, and officials hope the system will be able to identify other withheld property improvements.

Under French tax laws, any modifications to a property, such as the inclusion of a swimming pool, must be declared. Property taxes in France are based on rental value, meaning that any improvements carry with them an increase in taxes. Local media estimated that a typical 30-square-meter pool would mean an extra $200 in taxes a year. 

Developed by Google and Capgemini, the so-called 'Innovative Land' system cross-checks aerial images with land registry databases. As the system is expected to be rolled out across the entire country, tax officials hope it will learn to also recognize undeclared annexes, extensions, outbuildings, large garden sheds and verandas and bring French municipalities an additional $40 million in 2023.

The software still has a 30% margin of error, sometimes mistaking solar panels, tents and other rectangular shapes for swimming pools, meaning tax officials must double check the program's findings. It is reported that there are some 3.2 million private swimming pools in the country.

Meanwhile, environmentalists have been calling for a complete ban on private swimming pools amid the summer heatwave that had caused severe drought in many parts of France. Authorities have introduced varying degrees of drought warnings throughout the country’s municipalities, with at least 66 receiving the highest, 'crisis' level, restricting water use for health, civil security, drinking and sanitation uses.

The 'crisis' level also means it is prohibited to water gardens, golf courses, private crops, to fill pools, wash cars or operate water parks. The measure can also extend to limiting water usage to people, livestock and aquatic species.