Robots that steal human jobs should pay taxes, says Bill Gates

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Bill Gates says that we can’t just give up the taxes that humans pay

If a robot is going to do a human’s job, it should also pay a person’s income taxes, according to the Microsoft founder, Bill Gates. In other words, since fewer people will be working after robots take over human jobs, it would mean that fewer people would be paying taxes.

“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,” said Gates in an interview with Quartz’s editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney. “If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.”

Gates is actually hopeful about the prospect of a workforce made up significantly of robots and, he emphasizes the jobs humans will still and always be needed to do.

“What the world wants is to take this opportunity to make all the goods and services we have today and free up labor – let us do a better job of reaching out to the elderly, having smaller class side, helping kids with special needs,” says Gates.

“All of those are things where human empathy and understanding are still very unique, and we still deal with an immense shortage of people to help out there.”

“If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think we’d tax the robot at a similar level.”



Gates says that once automation takes over activities that humans used to do, that should free up time for people to take up emotional and emphatic roles like teaching and caring for the sick and elderly, having smaller class sizes, and helping kids with special needs.

But a “robot tax” is necessary to ensure that these services exist. Also, tax revenue is very important to making training and new, irreplaceable jobs available to human workers.

“But you can’t just give up that income tax, because that’s part of how you’ve been funding that level of human workers,” Gates said. “Some of it can come on the profits that are generated by the labor-saving efficiency there. Some of it can come directly from some type of robot tax. I don’t think the robot companies are going to be outraged that there’s going to be a tax.”

Eighty million U.S. jobs and 15 million U.K. jobs are at risk from automation, says Bank of England boss Mark Carney, as roles could be taken over by machines with some professions just disappearing.

Watch the full interview from Quartz here:

1 COMMENT

  1. That seems a little bit absurd. If I run a company and I have one person who makes $50k per year, that person pays taxes on the $50k while I write it off of my net revenue. If I have a robot who saves me that $50k per year, but costs me $10k to operate, then I am able to write off the $10k operational costs, but I then have to pay taxes on $40k in addition to what I was already paying. Prior to that $40k, I should already be in a higher tax bracket than the previously mentioned employee, so that means that there is a greater percentage of taxes paid on the remaining $40k then there would have been on the original $50k. In both scenarios, the total taxes paid on that $50k has to be at least equal, if not more in the case of the robot. I understand that the robot can be depreciated, and maybe that’s where the difference is, but in that case, I can only reasonably argue that the robot should not be depreciable. Now, to be clear, I am no expert regarding income taxes and the IRS, so I may be missing something here, but having run my own business for nearly 15 years, this is how it seems to me. I welcome constructive criticism.

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