French Government allies with Google to spot undeclared pools via satellite

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Owners of swimming pools in France beware, the artificially intelligent taxman cometh.

When tax collectors in Greece started comparing incomes with swimming pool ownership, many wealthy Greeks came up with a cunning plan: hide the pools with camouflage nets.

It remains to be seen whether such tactics could catch on in France, where fiscal authorities this month are launching an unprecedented campaign to root out people who have failed to declare the existence of their pools – along with garages or other extensions – via an experimental partnership with Google.

With 2.5 million swimming pools in individual homes, France has more piscines per capita than anywhere in the world bar America.

France already uses helicopters to detect undeclared swimming pools or owners who fill theirs during a period of drought. But this month, it is taking the hunt to another level thanks to AI.

Under the codename Innovative Real Estate, tax inspectors are using Google algorithms to automatically crosscheck aerial photos of swimming pools or house extensions with tax and property declarations in order to work out who has failed to come clean.

Pools are seen as extra real estate unless they are moveable or – in most cases – under 10 square metres in size. They must be declared to the local town hall before construction, leading to a one-off tax.

They must also be declared to the tax office within 90 days, leading to higher local property tax bills due to the increase in a home’s rental worth. Pools are exonerated from land tax for the first two years.

The AI drive will initially target nine départements, or counties, in southern and western France.

Pool cheats will initially receive a written warning to revise their declaration or face a tax inspection or fines. Under French law, an illegally built pool can lead to fines of €6,000 per square metre.

The new detection campaign relies on satellite images taken by France’s National Institute of Geographic and Forest Information, IGN, which are freely accessible on its national database. These will be scanned and compared with land registries.

The campaign follows a similar experiment in the southern Alpes-Maritimes département with Accenture group that detected 3,000 undeclared swimming pools in a matter of weeks.

If successful, it will be rolled out nationwide next year.

Read more via The Telegraph

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