The discovery of thousands of undeclared private swimming pools in France has brought the French tax authorities an unexpected windfall. After an experiment with artificial intelligence (AI), more than 20. discovered hidden pools. Pools can result in higher property taxes as they increase property value and must be declared under French law. The French media reports that the tax authorities have collected extra income of around ten million euros from the AI analysis.
Those from Google and the French consulting company Capgemini developed software discovered the pools during a test in October 2021 on aerial photographs of nine French regions. Now that the tests have flushed so much money into the tax coffers, they are to be extended to the entire country.
But it works French authorities not just about money. With a severe drought in the country, a debate has arisen about the use of water. More than a hundred communities already have no drinking water. July was the driest month in France since March 1961 with just 9.7 mm of rain, according to the national weather service Meteo-France. Irrigation of gardens, for example, has been banned in large parts of north-west and south-east France to save water.
Pool boom due to Corona period
According to the Statista data website, there were in 2020 in France more than 3.2 million private swimming pools whose sales were already booming before the Covid pandemic. However, with more employees working from home, there has been a further increase in pool installations. According to the newspaper »Le Parisien«, an average pool of 30 m² is worth 200 € taxed per year.
On top of that, the tax authorities say the software could now be used to find undeclared extensions, patios or gazebos, which also play a role in property taxes.
Antoine Magnant, Deputy Director General for Public Finance, told Le Parisien: ‘We are particularly targeting home extensions such as porches. But we have to be sure that the software finds buildings with a large footprint and not the kennel or the children’s playhouse.«
Julien Bayou of the French Greens did not rule out a ban on new private pools. France needs a “different relationship with water” and the ban is a “last resort”. The challenge is not to ban swimming pools, but “to meet our vital water needs,” he said.