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Should robots be taxed?

23 February 2017

Bill Gates believes that the Government should start taxing companies who utilise robotics in order to fund other types of employment.

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In a recent interview with Quartz, Gates said that “a robot tax could finance jobs taking care of elderly people or working with kids in schools, for which needs are unmet and to which humans are particularly well suited.” 

He argues that Government needs to slow down the speed of automation because advances in technology and business cases to replace human workers are happening at the same time, and it’s important to maintain a balance. If robots are taxed, the money collected can go towards funding those groups of workers who have become unemployed due to automation or other jobs where a human worker is necessary.

Dik Vos, CEO at SQS, believes “Bill Gates assertion that robots should be taxed, in order to fund the retraining of the workforce affected by the technology, is certainly an important discussion. I predict that up to 30 percent of the population’s job roles will become obsolete due to the rise of robots, so prioritising funding for mass retraining through the taxing of robots, which will stabilise the UK economy and keep the population in work, is crucial.”

However, the middle of February saw EU lawmakers reject a proposal to tax robots who, instead, wanted to focus on regulations around the ethics of robotics. This decision was hailed by the robotics industry who believe it would stunt innovation in this area.

Dik Vos continues: “the sweeping societal and industrial changes that artificial intelligence (AI) presents accelerates the need for the retraining of a sizable percentage of the population. Ironically, AI and automation may be the answer to solving the potential unemployment and skills shortage digitalisation poses. The rise of AI and robotics provides opportunities for those affected by automation to help shape the future of the very technology that put them out of a job in the first place.”

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