Big Brother: France Uses A.I. to Tax Over 20,000 Undeclared Swimming Pools

An aerial view shows houses in a residential area, some with swimming pools, on the French

Tax officials in France have turned to artificial intelligence to scan satellite photographs of the country for undeclared swimming pools in order to siphon off more tax revenue from the people.

An AI project launched in October of last year scanned the properties in nine of France’s 101 administrative departments, discovering 20,356 undeclared swimming pools, which the government expects to collect an additional 10 million euros in property taxes.

The ‘Innovative Land’ artificial intelligence programme will be expanded this October and again next year with the aim of blanketing the entire country under the surveillance system. According to a report from the Le Parisien newspaper, officials are expecting to rake in some 40 million euros in taxes next year from the programme.

Developed by Google and French IT firm Capgemini, the software processes overhead images taken by National Institute for Geographic and Forestry Information (IGN) and compares them with land registry data. Making changes to one’s property in France, such as installing a permanent swimming pool must be disclosed to tax officials within three months of completion. According to the French paper, a typical pool of around 30 square metres would increase property taxes by €200 per year.

The deputy director general of public finances, Antoine Magnant said: “We are particularly targeting house extensions like verandas.

“But we have to be sure that the software can find buildings with a large footprint and not the dog kennel or the children’s playhouse.”

The software initially ran into problems with accurately determining what a pool was, with blue tarps or blue coloured tables confusing the algorithm, with the programme having a 30 per cent mistake rate as of April.

The AI tech has since improved, however, with tests continuing to be held. “This is our second stage of research and will also allow us to verify if a property is empty and should no longer be taxed,” Magnant said.

The clamp-down by the taxman comes amid spiralling energy costs and inflation in France, with electricity prices up over 1,000 per cent over last year.

It also comes amid a severe drought ravaging the country, to which green politicians have called for restricting water usage for “recreational” uses such as swimming pools, which have become increasingly popular following years of lockdown restrictions.

The national secretary of the left-wing Europe-Ecology-the Greens (EELV), Julien Bayou said that the French people need to develop “a different relationship with water” and that it was reasonable to limit water usage for swimming pools should water resources become strained, saying: “The challenge is not to ban swimming pools, but to guarantee our vital water needs.”

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