They say the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. That seems especially true in France where tax authorities have begun deploying artificial intelligence to snuff out thousands of undeclared swimming pools reportedly worth around $10 million in uncollected tax revenue. The country could soon expand its all-seeing pool AI to detect all sorts of undeclared home additions. Sorry gray market home improvement aficionados, it seems the jig is up.
French authorities said their new system managed to identify 20,356 undeclared pools spread out across the country during a limited test last year, according to a report spotted by The Guardian. The tax authorities reportedly partnered up with Google and tech firm Capgemini to create a system able to identify pools across the country through aerial images. Those pool images are then cross-referenced against a land registry database held by French tax authorities detailing the number of declared pools.
French homeowners are required to declare swimming pools since they can impact an individual’s property taxes. Those taxes would normally tick up after a homeowner installs a pool or makes a similar property modification…but only if the tax office knows. France reportedly has over three million private swimming pools making it the second largest market outside of the U.S, according to French news publication The Connexion. Pool construction in the country jumped up 30% in 2021.
Last year’s test reportedly only encompassed nine tax departments. Now, after raking in millions in uncollected tax revenues, French officials say they want to expand the program nationwide. They’re not stopping with pools either. According to The Guardian, officials want to expand the AI system to potentially detect verandas and permanent pergolas as well.
“We are particularly targeting house extensions like verandas, but we have to be sure that the software can find buildings with a large footprint and not the dog kennel or the children’s playhouse,” Antoine Magnant, France’s Deputy Director General of Public Finances reportedly said.
That extended roll out may take some time to perfect. As of April, the system reportedly had a 30% margin of error leading it to incorrectly identify solar panels as swimming pools. The system reportedly struggles to determine whether or not a rectangular shape spotted on aerial footage is an undeclared addition or something else entirely.
France, under Emmanuel Macron’s presidency, has dumped more than €1.5 billion into AI projects in an effort to play catch up with the U.S. and China and turn the country into a “start-up nation.”
“There’s no chance of controlling any effects (of these technologies) or having a say on any adverse effects if we’ve missed the start of the war,” Macron said in 2018 according to Reuters.