Spotting Tax Cheats From Overhead: French Authorities Use AI to Tax Pool Owners

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Satellite imagery of suburban homes with backyard pools.

Tax dodgers can’t hide from AI — especially those who like to swim.

What’s new: French tax authorities, which tax swimming pools according to their size because they increase a home’s property value, netted nearly €10 million using an automated system to identify unregistered pools, Le Parisien reported.

Diving in: Developed by Google and Paris-based consultancy Capgemini, the system spots pools in a public database of aerial images. It then cross-checks them with land-registry data to determine whether they’re registered. France plans to roll it out nationwide this month.

  • In trials across nine French regions since October 2021, the system identified 20,356 suspected undeclared swimming pools. Of taxpayers whose pools were flagged, 94 percent did have an unregistered pool.
  • Officials plan to expand the system to identify undeclared improvements like gazebos and verandas that can raise a home’s property taxes.
  • They believe that the extended system will capture as much as €40 million in 2023.

Beneath the surface: At least 17 other European Union tax-collection agencies use AI for tasks that include identifying who should be audited, scraping taxpayer data from ecommerce sites, and powering chatbots that help taxpayers file. Last year, U.S. tax authorities implemented technology from Palantir that identifies fraud by analyzing tax returns, bank statements, property records, and social media activity.

Why it matters: As AI analyzes every nook and cranny of an individual’s data trail, reluctant taxpayers will find it harder to avoid paying up.
We’re thinking: There’s irony in a tech behemoth that’s known for aggressive tax-avoidance strategies helping a government collect tax revenue.

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