Tax authorities discover 120,000 undeclared swimming pools in France

Aerial photography and artificial intelligence were used to help identify homeowners who had not declared their swimming pools

Aerial shots enable authorities to detect completed pools that have not been declared for tax purposes
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Tax authorities in France have discovered more than 120,000 undeclared swimming pools using artificial intelligence (AI) technology in partnership with Google, it has emerged.

The software has been created by Capgemini with Google Earth and is used by La Direction générale des finances publiques (DGFiP). The tax office is set to recover €40 million to €50 million in unpaid taxe foncière via the software.

Properties with swimming pools must declare them to local authorities and pay the necessary taxe foncière as a result of the change. They must be declared within 90 days of their construction being completed.

What happens if an undeclared pool is discovered?

People found to have an undeclared swimming pool will receive a letter or email from the DGFiP alerting them to the discovery, and giving them a chance to rectify the issue.

They will have 30 days from receipt of the letter to declare their pool on the website via the Biens immobiliers section. They will then need to fill in some details, including the date on which the pool construction was completed, the size of the pool, and its characteristics.

Taxe foncière is due if the pool measures more than 10m2 and is a permanent structure (meaning that the only way to move the pool would be to demolish it). This includes below-ground and partially-below-ground pools, and ‘permanent’ above-ground pools, such as those built with wood.

How does the software work?

The software works by using aerial shots from l’Institut national de l’information géographique et forestière (IGN), to compare what is on the ground with the current records.

The views are checked by DGPiF agents and AI, and any discrepancies (such as a pool that was not there before) are investigated. There is a very low level of error.

Read more: French tax office begins to use aerial shots to find undeclared pools

The software was first launched and trialled in October 2021 in nine departments. These were Alpes-Maritimes, Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, Ardèche, Rhône, Haute-Savoie, Vendée, Maine-et-Loire and Morbihan.

The trial alone enabled authorities to detect 20,356 undeclared pools and recover almost €10 million in taxe foncière in autumn 2022.

Read more: Undeclared swimming pool detection system to be used across France

Beyond swimming pools

And authorities are set to go beyond pools as the technology use continues.

Read more: France wants to expand AI use to find undeclared verandas and sheds

Speaking at the launch of this latest initiative in April, Jérôme Fournel, director general of public finances, said: “We are gradually attacking larger subjects, including extensions, properties constructed without permits.

“It will take us a bit more time to make sure that the algorithm is of the same quality as that for pools, with a very low level of error.”

The software will detect undeclared properties and extensions, including new outbuildings, verandas, and sheds.

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