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Business Minister rejects the idea of taxing robots

17 May 2019

Business Minster Andrew Stephenson recommends taxes on robots and automation should be slashed to support investment and boost productivity, jobs and pay.

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It was Bill Gates, back in February 2017, who believed that the Government should start taxing companies who utilise robotics to fund other types of employment. In an 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 argued that Government needed 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.

However, Business Minister Andrew Stephenson has rejected the idea of extra tax on robots. Reported in The Telegraph, he told the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee: “I see a robot tax as perverse. We haven’t got enough robots to tax anyway. We need more robots, we need more automation, we need to incentivise businesses to invest and become more productive.”

Instead of slowing down the speed of automation, Mr Stephenson argues that more investment is needed. 

Earl Yardley, Director at Industrial Vision Systems, comments: “I wholly agree with the Business Minister Andrew Stephenson when he comments that “we haven’t got enough robots to tax anyway”. We require urgent action to intensify the investment in automation in UK manufacturing for the benefit of all. In 2020 the forecast for industrial robot sales in the UK is expected to top 2,300, in Germany they plan to install over 25,000 robots. Compare this to the 462,000 expected in the Asia market for the same period. The lack of investment in automation is a concern for UK manufacturing on a broader scale. The UK currently has a golden opportunity to become a strong market-oriented island of first-class R&D, high-tech industry and free trade. We can build the UK into a modern, high-tech society which, in turn, directly and positively impacts traditional manufacturing industries which should be the backbone of a stable UK economy. We should intensify our traditional free enterprise strengths, encouraging investment. Automation and robotics are critical to our success.”

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