Technology continues racing forward, giving robots more and more human qualities. But some politicians have a uniquely human element they’d like to bestow upon these machines – the obligation to pay taxes.
Of course, it’s not the robot responsible for the paying – we’re not quite there yet. But some lawmakers are looking to levy a tax on companies that transition to an automated workforce. One advocate is San Francisco City Supervisor Jane Kim, whose proposed “Jobs of the Future Fund” suggests such a tax, earmarking funds for educating and re-training displaced workers, and supporting jobs hard to replace by automation.
While Kim’s initiative may seem futuristic, many business leaders think it’s a rotten idea. Steve Cousins, the founder and CEO of the robotics company Savioke, called the tax an “innovation penalty.”
Ulrich Spiesshofer, the CEO of multinational robotics and automation corporation ABB Group, was a bit more blunt in an interview on CNBC: “Taxing robotics is as intelligent as taxing software.”
Microsoft founder Bill Gates, has been an outspoken supporter of the robot tax, claiming since the robots are taking work from humans their companies should pay a penalty for improving efficiency. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has a different view: Forcing companies to pay a tax will not mitigate the impact of job automation.
“I’m not in favor of trying to hold back technological advance,” Ross said in a broadcast interview. “And if we don’t employ robots, the Chinese will, the Vietnamese will, the Europeans will, the Japanese will. Everyone will.”