Should Robots Pay Taxes?

If you work in the United States you have to pay taxes. While most people dislike paying taxes, it is important to do so. Taxes go towards retirement benefits, food and nutritional assistance, government programs, and a number of other things that benefit society. Without income taxes, it would be difficult for governments to pay for all the projects and programs citizens rely on.

A world without workers

We’re seeing more and more predictions, as well as evidence, that robots could displace millions of human workers in the near future. Truck drivers, cab drivers, receptionists, analysts, janitors, and factory workers are just a few of the jobs that are threatened by automation and robots. What happens if jobs are held by robots, who don’t pay the taxes the human workers did? Workers pay taxes. If there are no workers, tax revenue decreases. Should robots pay the difference?

Perhaps robots should pay taxes instead

Obviously, the robots wouldn’t themselves pay taxes. Businesses that employ robots would pay taxes. Bill Gates suggests that as automation becomes more prevalent, and laborers are displaced by machines, governments should tax robots.

In an interview with Quartz, Bill Gates said, “Right now, if a human worker does, you know, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed. If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level”.

Gates also talks about how humans could continue to be useful after robots hold a majority of labor positions. Automation could free up workers to do things that robots can’t do. He mentions teaching and care giving as tasks that would still require workers because “human empathy and understanding are still very, very unique”. Taxing robots would allow for funding of these human workers.

What do you think? Should we tax robots? Leave your comments below!