France: AI finds tens of thousands of undeclared pools on aerial photos

In a pilot test in France, 20,000 undeclared pools were discovered with the help of an algorithm. This brought the treasury 10 million euros.

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Pools in the South of France

(Bild: Bing Maps)

(Hier finden Sie die deutsche Version des Beitrags)

After French tax authorities discovered tens of thousands of undeclared pools in a pilot project with the help of AI technology and aerial photos and secured additional revenue of 10 million euros for the state, the procedure is now to be used nationwide. This was confirmed by the General Directorate of Public Finances (DGFiP) to the AFP news agency following a report in Le Parisien. The newspaper had reported that with the help of the algorithms, more than 20,000 undeclared pools had been discovered in a total of nine departments. It is now being considered to use the technique to search for other undeclared assets - such as verandas.

The project was presented in April, and the tax directorate cooperated with the consulting firm Capgemini and Google to develop the technology. It was tested in the departments of Alpes-Maritimes, Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, Ardèche, Rhône, Haute-Savoie, Morbihan, Maine-et-Loire and Vendée, writes Le Parisien. According to the report, back taxes of around 6 million euros were due for the pools traced on aerial photographs, and the calculated property tax for this year amounts to around 4 million euros. This money will now benefit the municipalities in the long term. Next year, thanks to the expansion to the whole of France, a total of 40 million euros should be collected, estimates the DGFiP.

The technology, called "Foncier innovant", enables the automatic recognition of buildings and facilities on aerial photographs as well as a comparison with the tax register. In the future, undeclared extensions such as verandas or large garden houses could also be recognised. However, Le Parisien reports that the software still has to be improved. As French media now explain, pools and extensions are taxable if they cannot be moved without having to be demolished. Pools with a surface area of more than 100 m2 also require a permit from the municipality.

The search for undeclared pools also ran against the backdrop of a severe drought in France, which has sparked a debate about drinking water use. While the use of the algorithm has turned out to be extremely successful financially for the tax authorities, there has also been criticism from workers' representatives. As reported by Ouest-France, a regional branch of the CGT Finances Publique trade union has expressed "concern" that the project will allow for "savings" and therefore fewer jobs will be filled despite a long-standing reduction in staff.