The discovery of thousands of unregistered private swimming pools in France has brought the French tax authorities an unexpected windfall.

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Over 20,000 underground pools were found after an artificial intelligence (AI) experiment.

They have generated about €10 million ($9.9; £8.5 million), according to French media.

Because they increase property value, pools can result in higher property taxes and are required to be declared under French law.

During a trial in October 2021, the software—which was created by Google and the French consulting firm Capgemini—found the pools on aerial photographs of nine French districts.

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The study was conducted in the regions of the Alpes-Maritimes, Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, Ardèche, Rhône, Haute-Savoie, Vendée, Maine-et-Loire, and Morbihan; however, tax officials claim it may now be implemented nationally.

According to data portal Statista, there were more than 3.2 million private swimming pools in France in 2020, and business was flourishing even before the Covid pandemic.

However, as more workers choose to work from home, the number of pools installed increased.

A typical pool measuring 30 square metres (322 square feet) is subject to an annual tax of €200 ($200; £170).

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The software may potentially be used to identify gazebos, patios, and unreported home additions that affect property taxes, according to the tax authorities.

Le Parisien quoted deputy director general of public finances Antoine Magnant as saying: “We are particularly targeting house extensions like verandas.

“But we have to be sure that the software can find buildings with a large footprint and not the dog kennel or the children’s playhouse,” he added.

After Julien Bayou of the France’s Europe-Ecology Greens party did not rule out a ban on new private pools, there was a crackdown.

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He claimed in an interview with BFMTV that France needed a “different relationship to water” and that the ban would be a “last resort”.

“The challenge is not to ban swimming pools, it is to guarantee our vital water needs,” he said.

He made these remarks while France battled its worst-ever drought, which has left more than 100 localities without access to drinking water.

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According to the national weather service Meteo-France, July was the driest month in France since March 1961 with just 9.7mm (0.38 inches) of rain.

Across order to conserve water, irrigation has been prohibited in parts of France’s north-west and south-east.

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