The “Innovative Land” system of public finances aims to detect swimming pools and undeclared buildings. In the Aude, 3,400 swimming pools have been pointed out by the AI. But Solidaires Finances Publiques points to a major anomaly rate and fears job cuts for land surveyors.
In August 2022, the Directorate General of Public Finance (DGFiP) delivered a flamboyant assessment of the experimentation of the “Innovative Land” system. Deployed in nine departments, the combination of IGN aerial views and an artificial intelligence algorithm aimed to detect non-imposed swimming pools. At stake, “more than 20,000 swimming pools” undeclared detected, “94% of owners” having confirmed their taxable nature, and “nearly €10 million in additional revenue for the municipalities concerned”. What to decide the DGFiP, in search “equity and social justice”, to generalize the system to the whole territory in the 2nd half of 2022, projecting for 2023 nearly €40 million in local direct tax gains. A turn that, in the Aude, Solidaires Finances Publiques considers premature. Not in principle, assures Frédéric Faure, his co-secretary: “But we are generalizing a technique that is not yet effective.” On the side of Solidaires, which points in passing to the choice of entrusting Google – “an example in terms of taxation” – data storage, returns are far from the “very positive” 94% of the DGFiP.
Carcassonne: 40 swimming pools targeted, 20 errors
“In the Var (a test department, Editor’s note)we have anomalies up to 30%specifies Christian Bombail, elected Solidarity on the local technical committee of the DDFiP of Aude and land surveyor (there are seven in Aude, Editor’s note). The AI detected above-ground, non-taxable pools, but also retained “ghost elements”, such as color variations on the bitumen, or even tarpaulins.
If the project, in its final phase, provides for the automatic sending of letters to the owners at fault, it is for the time being first of all the surveyors of the cadastre who are responsible for verifying “by eye, on document, or by going on site” these frauds or unfortunate omissions. Task carried out in Carcassonne: “Of 40 so-called non-imposed pools, 20 were AI errors.” Low success rate, factor of interrogations on the 3,400 swimming pools detected to be treated on the scale of Aude. Especially since, Christian Bombail reminds us, “AI’s photographic coverage will be every three years. It is exactly at the same frequency that the surveyors tour the municipalities in the department.”
Essential land tax surveyors
And to plan for the next stage of “Innovative Land”, on buildings, currently being tested: “In 80% of cases, this detects cases that do not correspond to tax criteria (especially on agricultural buildings, Editor’s note). We know very well, by looking at the cadastre, if a building is taxable. Reference to a very human asset: “AI has no memory, agents do.” One more argument to oppose the logical and dreaded sequence. “The counterpart of all this, continues Frédéric Faure, it is that the DGFiP estimated the reduction in staff at 300 agents, mainly land surveyors. Agents who, underlines the trade unionist, “are the last category present on the field on a daily basis”.
And which, in addition to the cadastral plans and reorganizations carried out, assume a major mission: to update the land data and establish the cadastral rental values allowing the calculation of the tax bases of the built and unbuilt properties. Major, does not hesitate to recall Frédéric Faure, for communities “deprived of council tax”. What to plead with them for deliberations “opposing a harmful project”. By recalling that, if land surveyors were to disappear, “Communities will have to resort to private service providers”.
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Artificial intelligence and undeclared swimming pools: Solidaires points out the limits
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