AI detects undeclared pools in France

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An unexpected bonanza for French tax officials has resulted from the discovery of thousands of unregistered private swimming pools in France. There were more than 20,000 hidden pools found as a result of an artificial intelligence (AI) project.

French media has reported that tax authorities have earned about $ 9.9 million. Pools must be declared under French law and might result in increased property taxes because they increase property value, as reported by the BBC. 

During a trial in October 2021, the software—which was created by Google and the French consulting firm Capgemini—found the pools on aerial photographs of nine French districts.

The study was conducted in the regions of the Alpes-Maritimes, Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, Ardèche, Rhône, Haute-Savoie, Vendée, Maine-et-Loire, and Morbihan; however, tax officials claim it may now be implemented nationally.

As per data portal Statista, there were more than 3.2 million private swimming pools in France in 2020, and business was flourishing even before the Covid epidemic.

However, as more workers choose to work from home, the number of pools installed increased.

A 30 sq m (322 sq ft) average pool costs €200 ($200; £170) in taxes annually, according to the Le Parisien newspaper.

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As per the tax authorities, the programme may potentially be used to identify gazebos, patios, and unreported home additions that affect property taxes.

Le Parisien quoted deputy director general of public finances Antoine Magnant as saying: “We are specifically focusing on housing expansions like verandas.

But we need to make sure the algorithms can identify large-footprint buildings and not just dog kennels or kiddie playhouses, he continued.

The crackdown follows Julien Bayou of the Europe-Ecology Greens party in France saying that he had not ruled out a ban on new private pools.

Speaking to BFMTV, he said that France needs a “different relationship to water” and that the ban would be a “last resort”.

“The challenge is not to ban swimming pools, it is to guarantee our vital water needs,” he said.

As per the national weather service Meteo-France, July was the driest month in France since March 1961 with just 9.7mm (0.38 inches) of rain.

Across order to conserve water, irrigation has been prohibited in parts of France’s north-west and south-east.

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