An artificial intelligence from Google flushes out fraudsters for the French tax authorities. In Switzerland, algorithms are more at the service of taxers to process declarations more quickly.
Your house seen from the sky. A technology like Google earth now allows everyone to discover the satellite photo of their home. Snapshots updated faster than cadastral plans, which group together the different properties on a map.
This observation gave an idea to the French tax authorities. Create an algorithm that automatically searches for differences between satellite views and the land register. The goal is simple: find swimming pools, building extensions or verandas that have not been declared for tax. So many constructions that increase property and housing taxes.
French tax officials receive a series of automatic denunciations. It is up to them to go and see the offense on the ground. For its program, dubbed “Innovative land tenure”, the French Ministry of Finance would have spent 13 million francs in particular for the algorithm developed by Google, according to the revelations of the “Canard Enchaîné”.
An investment that could quickly pay off. Tests carried out in 2019 in three French departments revealed 3,000 underground swimming pools.
And in Switzerland?
The idea makes people smile in the French-speaking cantons. Officially, there is no ongoing test or partnership to track down fraudsters using artificial intelligence or an algorithm. The appraisers may nonetheless, from time to time, use tools such as Google Earth to verify the declarations.
Because developing an algorithm is very expensive for a cantonal administration. Everything is developed “to measure”. The automatic search for information in Switzerland is also quite complicated. Administrations are often compartmentalized. They do not exchange certain information.
Thomas Alabor, innovation manager at Bedag Informatik AG (left) with Marianne Nufer and Reto Achermann from the Obwalden tax administration, at the 3rd prize in the category “Best project for the use of innovative technologies 2020 “of the eGouvernement competition. [egovernment-wettbewerb.de]Yet, on closer inspection, some algorithms are working in the tax department. County d’Obwald last year received an award in the international e-government competition.
A search for efficiency
They have developed an algorithm that feeds on all tax data, such as age, deduction for business trips, car, fortune or property. In total, more than 2000 data is instantly compared with the declarations of the last 5 years.
“If we can identify the cases that do not need correction, we can reduce the workload considerably”, explains Thomas Alabor, innovation manager for the Bernese company. Bedag who developed the algorithm.
The goal is therefore to sort it out, so that the experts can work as a priority on the declarations that deserve corrections. For Thomas Alabor, the tax sector has potential. “As a next step, one could imagine the development of algorithms that support experts, indicating areas that probably need corrections.”
Taxed by a robot
In the canton of Friborg, this idea of automatic taxation is attractive. A project is currently being carried out to develop an algorithm. The goal is, ultimately, to have between 15 and 20% of tax returns that would be processed automatically.
A robot that automatically processes your tax return? The idea could worry citizens. But according to Alain Mauron, administrator of the Service Fribourgeois des contributions, the taxpayer has nothing to worry about.
“He always retains his legal remedies. If the taxation does not suit him, he can always challenge. The goal is to use these robots to tax returns that do not cause problems. Normally if the machine taxes, it is that the lights are green. The taxpayer receives a tax which corresponds to what he has declared. There is no particular concern to be made “.