according to different French media A system developed by Google and Capgemini that recognizes swimming pools on aerial photographs and compares the data with that in the land registry databases was used. A year ago, the system was introduced on a trial basis in nine French departments. On August 29, 2022, it discovered 20,356 illegal pools, according to the French tax authorities. According to Statista, the country has a total of about 3.2 million private swimming pools. Now the use of the software is extended to all of France.
Structural changes to properties and pools must be reported to the French tax authorities within 90 days of completion. The property tax in France is based on the rental value of a property and increases when, for example, a house is upgraded with a swimming pool. A typical private swimming pool of 30 square meters will cost the owners about 200 euros in additional taxes per year.
Authorities now also want to use the system to identify vacant properties, unreported additions, extensions and porches. “We’re mainly focusing on additions like porches,” Antoine Magnant, deputy general manager for public finance, told Le Parisien newspaper. The task is not trivial, because in the worst case the software can also display buildings with a kennel or a children’s playhouse. A rectangular shape in an aerial view does not necessarily have to be an extension: there can also be a garden tent, a terrace or a tarpaulin lying on the ground.
As late as April, Google and Capgemini’s software was said to have a 30 percent error rate. They confuse solar panels with swimming pools and have trouble recognizing taxable additions hidden under trees or in the shade of a property. Currently, however, development teams are busy perfecting the technology.
The move comes as French environmentalists are calling for a ban on private swimming pools after the heat wave of recent weeks led to devastating wildfires and prolonged water shortages. (ss)