France uses AI to track 20,000+ undeclared pools; taxes them
Be ready to pay a hefty fine if you have an undisclosed swimming pool in France. The French government has collected roughly €10 million (around Rs. 79.4 crore) in taxes from errant owners of private pools using artificial intelligence (AI). The project, developed by Capgemini and Google, has uncovered 20,356 pools across nine metropolitan departments, and the process will be extended across the nation.
Why does this story matter?
- There are roughly 3.2 million (32 lakh) private swimming pools in France and environmentalists are demanding strict action against them due to drought and water restrictions.
- Penalizing errant owners is also in the government's favor as it hopes to earn around €40 million (roughly Rs. 317 crore) in new taxes on private pools next year.
- The increasing reliance on tech is once again exhibited.
What do French laws say?
In France, property modifications must be declared within 90 days of completion to the tax office called 'Le Fisc.' A property's rental value is considered while calculating housing taxes. Hence, owners failing to declare swimming pools are avoiding hundreds of euros in extra payments. A 30 sq. meter pool would carry an additional tax of around €200 (approximately Rs. 15,880) per year.
How does the AI work?
In October 2021, Google and Capgemini developed an experimental system that started analyzing aerial images shot by France's National Institute of Geographic and Forest Information. The AI identifies pools on the photos and cross-checks them with the national tax and property registries. However, its scope is limited and has only analyzed pics from nine of the country's 96 metropolitan departments to date.
What are its limitations?
The analytical AI has a 30% error margin. In the past, the system failed to identify taxable extensions hidden in shadows and beneath trees within a property. It also mistook solar panels for swimming pools. It is also difficult to discern whether rectangular shapes in aerial pictures are terraces, tarpaulins on the ground, or simply tents. Verandas are very important targets for tax officials.