Should the Government Tax Your Toaster?
You read that right! The taxation of automation from various machines and robots is something that is being debated at this current moment. Ranging from the assembly line, all the way to simple devices in our homes. Robots are taking jobs, and this causes quite the debate.
Our team talks about taxes every day, but not always about robots. However, it seems the world has been having discussions about whether or not we should tax robots for years. Even as early as the 1940’s in America, there was a bill that was proposed to tax machines to make up for lost labor. This is a concern for both politicians and those trying to keep their jobs.
With robots taking the places of workers, the government loses tax contributors. Although if we decide to tax the robots in response, this may discourage innovation. Innovation is around every corner; it’s what provides us with our many conveniences of the 21st century. So where do we draw the line on what is a robot if the government gets involved? Let’s break down either side of this debate today, and try to make sense of things.
What are Taxable Robots?
If you want to start thinking about this, we must first set some definitions. What do you consider to be a robot? It would be fair to say that the humanoid robots seen across science fiction come to mind, but this could even be the robotic arm that puts your cars door on in your manufacturers’ assembly line. When we start asking where the line is drawn, things get tricky.
Machines, in general, are essentially the “robots” in question. They provide automation that eliminates the need for human operators of any given task. So the main problem at hand seems to be whether or not this automation from innovation is relinquishing a person of their job.
Now if we use that as classification, it becomes a slippery slope. Think about the software available on our many devices. It provides automation in which humans previously had to pay someone else to do. That’s not always the case of course, but you can see how this may stretch beyond what we first thought.
That’s why it makes it difficult to put a taxation on robots since it’s difficult to pin down where the line is drawn. Assembly lines tend to be a focus of the argument. The manufacturing process for many goods is slowly being turned into automated systems with robots. Begging the question of how this is affecting the job market and our economy itself.
Bill Gates says Tax the Robots!
Income tax is very important for providing the many things we use today such as public transit, healthcare, roadways, etc. According to Bill Gates in his interview on Quartz, the loss of taxable incomes should be made up for by taxation of robots taking jobs from people. The argument seems sound at first.
To put it simply, you could compare a worker who would typically make roughly $30,000 a year in an assembly line with the $0 dollars made by a robot that would take their place. The human worker provides a taxable income to support government funding, but the robot does not. As these people are replaced, we lose those taxable incomes. So it makes sense to tax the robots in exchange to make up for this loss, or does it?
He emphasized the importance and the benefits of income tax providing many of the things we love and need. However, the dangers of this could be that companies may shy away from innovation since they would be taxed more. So what would be more beneficial, taxable incomes for the government, or automation and innovation?
Here’s Why We May Not Need to Tax Robots.
People disagree with the taxation on robots for a few reasons. Not only are these arguments coming from the business owners who are developing these technologies for automation. It is also a concern for those who want innovation to be expedited.
Ever since the discovery of fire, and the explosions of discoveries in the industrial revolution, automation has been exponentially growing. Each piece of tech making the next one easier to develop. This is where Lawrence Summers provides a counter-argument to Bill Gates’ claims.
Taxing automation will only slow down the process of innovation. Considering how fast these technologies are growing, we may want to let them expand. Think of how much money is saved by the right innovations, and how many jobs are made within the robotic industries. Think of all the people needed to develop and maintain these machines. Additionally, if industries thrive with efficiency, there will be more of a need for people to transport and sell these various goods, only supplementing the economy more.
Your Toaster is Safe from Taxes for Now.
As this debate continues, things may change. First, we must decide where to draw the line on what should be considered a robot. Then we should find out whether or not we should be taxing these so-called robots. What is the most beneficial solution to our people and our economy? Taxing robots makes sense, but unfortunately could halt innovation and slow down humanity’s advancements.
Rest easy though, we probably won’t go so far as taxing any device that provides convenience and automation. So your toaster, your lawnmower, and whatever convenient machines or devices you have will be safe from taxation. This will probably end up landing on the assembly lines where artificial intelligence is taking over the need for humans to be working there.
Most likely, this won’t be an easy dilemma to act upon since there are many grey areas, but thankfully, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There will always be a need for human workers in many areas within our society. A robot cannot be a counselor or care for the elderly to the same degree as a human. The human touch and capacity for complex thought and empathy have yet to be surpassed by technology.
However, this is good to chew on since it will become a more apparent issue the further we press into our advancements as a civilization. We just wanted to share this interesting topic with you today and hope it gave you some food for thought. Let us know what you think below and share your opinion on the matter. Do you think we should taxing robots? If so, what is your definition of a robot?