Microsoft founder Bill Gates has suggested that companies that use robots in place of human labour should pay some form of tax on the profits that automation derives.
In an interview with Quartz, Gates said: “Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000-worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed and you get income tax, social security tax, all those things. If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level. You can’t just give up that income tax.”
A solution, he argued, would be charges on profits made from automation or “directly in some type of robot tax”.
"There are many ways to take that extra productivity and generate more taxes. Exactly how you’d do it, measure it, you know, it’s interesting for people to start talking about now," Gates explained.
"Some of it can come on the profits that are generated by the labor-saving efficiency there. Some of it can come directly in some type of robot tax. I don’t think the robot companies are going to be outraged that there might be a tax. It’s OK."
It comes after research from consultancy firm McKinsey found that 49% of workers’ time could be handled by “currently demonstrated technology”. The EU government had considered a proposal to tax robot owners to pay for training for workers who lose their jobs, but in the end rejected it.