The FISC is using Machine Learning software developed with CapGemini and Google Cloud to detect undeclared private swimming pools. More than 10 million euros in taxes have already been collected from 9 départements, and the system is set to be extended nationwide. Find out all you need to know…
It’s 2022, and connect to French administration websites remains a real ordeal. When the servers don’t crash, it’s the application that bugs or the website that is hacked…
On the other hand, there are one thing France is at the forefront of of technology: collecting taxes. Thanks to Machine Learning, the FISC was able to detect undeclared swimming pools and collect almost 10 million euros in additional taxes.
In France, taxes are calculated on the basis of the rental value of a property. Swimming pools can therefore cost several hundred euros a year.
On average, a 30-square-meter pool is taxed at 200 euros per year. Yet many unscrupulous owners choose not to declare them.
Software created with Capgemini and Google Cloud
In order to trap them, France has launched its Machine Learning project in October 2021. In partnership with Capgemini and Google Cloud, the FISC analyzed aerial photos from the Institut national de l’information géographique et forestière.
Software has been developed for identify pools in these imagesThis is achieved by identifying blue rectangles or ovals. This approach makes it possible to detect pools that were previously hidden by walls and bushes.
These information is then cross-referenced with national tax and property register databases. After human verification, if a pool detected by the system is not declared, the owner is charged with fraud.
According to early project reports, the Machine Learning software had initially an extremely high error rate of 30%. The model frequently confused other installations such as solar panels with swimming pools.
These problems have now been resolved, and the DGFIP assures us that its Machine Learning system is almost infallible. Among the taxpayers contacted by the authorities following the tool’s discovery of their pool, 94% confirmed they had a taxable pool.
The institution even intends to extend its use to the detection of other undeclared structures. According to Antoine Magnant, Director General of Public Finances, extensions such as verandas are particularly targeted. It will be necessary, however, for the software not to confuse them with smaller structures such as a dog house or children’s hut.
A controversial strategy
The choice of Google Cloud as partner by Capgemini has been controversial. Ironically, this American giant has been in conflict with the French government for a long time… over the taxes it doesn’t pay.
In addition, several unions representing public finance employees are expressing their concerns about this new approach. In particular, they fear that the government will replace them with artificial intelligence, and get rid of the employees sent out into the field.
The Bouches-du-Rhône representative of the Confédération Générale du Travail also believes that this tool is not sufficiently precise. In particular, he criticizes the AI for confusing taxable in-ground pools and temporary above-ground pools, which are not taxable.
According to him, face-to-face interactions with taxpayers remain indispensable in these situations. He states that ” artificial intelligence must never replace human beings “.
Towards a complete scan of the country, for €40 million in taxes
For the time being, the scope of the project remains limited. Only 9 of the 96 French departments were screened.
The system was tested in Alpes-Maritimes, Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, Ardèche, Rhône, Haute-Savoie, Vendée, Maine-et-Loire and Morbihan. However, in this small part of the country alone, the DGFIP discovered 20,356 undeclared swimming pools.
In total, according to Statista’s latest estimates for 2020, there are around 3.2 million private swimming pools in France. However, construction is said to have boomed during the Covid-19 and heatwave confinements. According to the Fédération des Professionnels de la Piscine et du Spa, more than 240,000 pools were built in France during the year. in 2021 alone.
At in the midst of a drought, private pool ownership is the subject of controversy in France. Only 9.7 millimetres of rain fell in July 2022. This is the driest month for the country since March 1961 according to Meteo-France. More than 100 municipalities were threatened by water shortages, and watering was banned in most of the northwest and southeast.
In the face of extreme heat, some people are discreetly squatting in their neighbor’s pool to cool off. Others go so far as to. piercing jacuzzis to express their anger…
The Île-de-France regional councillor and national secretary of the Europe Ecologie les Verts party recently caused a stir when he refused to exclude a ban on the construction of new private swimming pools.
He believes this is a last resort, and later clarified on Twitter that his goal is not to ban pools, but to to ” guarantee our vital water needs “.
The FISC now provides for extend the use of AI to the entire country with the exception of the French overseas departments. This could yield 40 million euros in additional taxes…