French officials using AI to map and tax — Analysis

Despite severe drought in the country, authorities managed to raise an extra $10mn from tax revenues

France’s tax authorities are using new AI technology to identify private pools not yet declared. This has been reported to have generated an additional $10 million in tax revenue.

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. Officials hope that the program can be expanded across the country to find other property improvements.

French tax law states that modifications of property such as the addition or removal of swimming pools must be disclosed. France has property taxes that are based on rent value. This means any improvement to a property will be subject to an increase in taxes. A typical pool of 30 square meters would result in $200 more taxes per year, according to local media. 

Developed by Google and Capgemini, the so-called “Innovative Land” system cross-checks aerial images with land registry databases. Tax officials anticipate that the system will soon be available across all of the country. They hope to learn how to identify undeclared extensions and annexes as well as large garden sheds or verandas.

Over 100 French municipalities still without drinking water

There is still a 30% error margin in the software, which can sometimes mistake solar panels for tents or other rectangular forms. Tax officials will need to double-check program results. According to reports, there are 3.2 million private pools.

In the midst of severe droughts in France, environmentalists called for complete bans on private swimming pools. 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. This measure could also be used to limit water consumption for people, animals and aquatic species.

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