The next time you take a plunge in a private pool in France, the tax-man may be watching.
An experiment using artificial intelligence and satellite images of just a handful of French regions has already discovered around 20,000 undeclared swimming pools, enabling the tax office to collect 10 million euros ($10 million) in penalties and dues for 2022.
The government expects that expanding the use of the new tool, which is also designed to detect building extensions and outhouses, will enable local authorities to collect another 40 million euros in levies in 2023.
“The aim is to fight more effectively against anomalous declarations and respond to the demands of citizens for greater equity and tax justice,” the French tax office said in a report on the experiment to spot pools in nine of the country’s 100 regional jurisdictions known as departments.
Private pools are big business in France. According to professional pool federation FPP, in 2020 there were almost 3 million measuring more than 10 square meters, making the country the largest market in Europe, and second only to the U.S. in the world.
To spot those hiding their pools, French authorities crossed publicly available satellite images with local authority records and tax declarations. All anomalies were then investigated by a tax inspector before households were informed and levies imposed.
The French government hired Capgemini and Alphabet Inc.’s Google for parts of the project that will cost a total of 24 million euros between 2021 and 2023. The expected income gains mean the measure will be profitable from the second year, the tax office said.
“Given the convincing character of the results in nine departments in the experiment, the measure will be generalized gradually in the second half of 2022,” the tax office said.