Swimming pools: How to check you are within tax rules in France

There are forms to fill in and taxes to pay at both the construction stage and after completion. Here is how it works

An aerial view of a swimming pool at a house in France
Swimming pool projects are subject to tax at the construction and completion stage
Published Last updated

Article published January 3, 2024. Edited January 5 to correct the description of how the taxe d'aménagement is calculated

Authorities in France now use artificial intelligence and drone camera photos to check if homeowners are sticking to the rules for swimming pools, making compliance even more important.

Since September 2022, a scheme that uses AI to detect undeclared swimming pools has been rolled out across France, after successful trials in nine departments (Alpes-Maritimes, Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, Ardèche, Rhône, Haute-Savoie, Morbihan, Maine-et-Loire, and Vendée).

Anyone who is suspected of non-declaration will receive a letter inviting them to update their declaration, and pay any related required tax. In 2023, more than 120,000 taxpayers received such a message, and authorities are expected to have received more than €50 million in previously unpaid taxes as a result.

In one worst-case scenario, authorities can even order owners to fill in a swimming pool and undo all work on the surrounding area.

Here is how to stay compliant and avoid fines or action.

What do you have to declare?

Swimming pools - and their construction projects before they are completed - must be declared to the mairie prior to construction if they are:

  • 10 square metres or larger
  • Cannot be moved without being demolished or damaged (in contrast to an inflatable pool, for example).

This applies to both in-ground and above-ground pools.

A pool that can be dismantled and moved without causing any damage does not have to be declared as long as it does not remain in place for more than three months of the year.

You may not be able to construct a pool in areas of land that are protected (for example, in protected natural space or near to a historic monument) and in such cases any construction plan requires prior declaration in all cases, including:

  • All in-ground pools, even if they are smaller than 10 m2
  • Removable pools if they will remain in place for more than 15 days a year.

What extra taxes are due?

Planning tax

Declaring a pool building project requires you to pay a planning tax called taxe d'aménagement.

It is currently worked out on the basis of €250 per square metre, to which is then applied a rate set by the municipal council (usually from 1% to 5%) and a departmental council rate which cannot exceed 2.5% (in Ile-de-France, there is also a regional amount, not exceeding 1%).

It can be paid in two instalments if it exceeds €1,500.

Taxe foncière on the property

After the work is complete, your local property ownership tax (taxe foncière) is likely to go up to reflect the fact that the theoretical rental value (valeur locative cadastrale) of your property has increased, as this tax is calculated based on this value.

Tax officials estimate that a swimming pool leads to a revaluation of the rental value of your property or between 5-10%.

Note that if the property is a second home then taxe d’habitation is also payable, and also affected by this.

If the property is rented out

If the property is rented out, the tenant does not need to pay taxe d’habitation on the property (which now has a swimming pool) if they use it as their main home.

However, the owner must pay the extra taxe foncière and cannot charge the tenant extra to cover this.

What are the risks of not declaring a swimming pool?

If the pool is not in a protected area, you will be given formal notice to pay all taxes due, and must continue to pay them in future years. This includes taxes on the work itself, and taxes on a completed pool project.

If you have not paid taxes for several years, you may have to pay for this in arrears, if authorities can prove that the pool has existed for this time. However, in 2023, the limit was back to 2020. The tax code also states that the amount paid cannot exceed four times’ the amount due for the most recent year.

If the work is in a protected area - or the area has become protected since the work was carried out - you may be asked to fill in the pool and revert the space to its previous condition.

If you feel there has been a mistake, you can challenge the mairie and tax authorities via their office or even in court.

How can I declare the work?

You will need to fill in and submit the relevant Cerfa documents.

‘Cerfa’ is a term used for many administrative forms in France. For example, for a pool with a surface area of between 10 m2 and 100 m2, you will need to complete Cerfa form number 13703, relating to a ‘prior declaration’. For pools larger than this, the document to be completed is Cerfa number 13406*11, which concerns a full planning permission application.

Note however, that in some larger communes it is now possible to complete all these formalities online, so you should check with your mairie if this would be preferable.

Once approval is obtained, it is usually valid for three years, as long as the final project complies with the stated details: for example, the pool cannot end up being larger than stated.

The completion of the work must be declared on Cerfa form number 13408*08 to the mairie. As with the other applications, this may be possible online, otherwise it should be done by sending a registered post letter with reception slip (lettre recommandée avec avis de réception) or in person at the mairie.

You must check that all the relevant forms are filled in and submitted on time. Depending on your project, you may need to fill in others in addition to those mentioned here. If you need help filling in the Cerfa forms, there are professionals who can walk you through the process.

You can check the declaration requirements of your project on the government website Service-public.fr on this page here (also available in English).

Official government website service-public.fr also states that ‘new constructions’ such as swimming pools should also be declared to the local property tax office (centre des impôts foncier) within 90 days of them being ‘usable’, on Cerfa 10517.

You will, as with any new build, then obtain an exemption from taxe foncière for two years.

What if I get a letter or email?

If you receive a reminder from the tax authorities by post or email, you have 30 days to comply.

To do this, you must go to the ‘Property’ area on your tax account on the impots.gouv.fr website so as to indicate the nature of the work and the estimated completion date.

When the completion date approaches, you will then be sent another email inviting you to declare completion. If there are delays, you can indicate a new estimated completion date.

You are likely to be required to pay back-payments in arrears if the declaration goes back several years, and will only be able to plead ‘a good faith mistake’ in a few, specific cases. Some exceptions might include if you have just bought the property, and the previous owners had not paid (although this should have been sorted out by the notaires during the transaction).

Tax authorities are not otherwise likely to accept ‘a mistake’ as a reason for non-payment over several years. However, you may be able to ask for easier payment terms, such as more instalments.

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