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Bill Gates says robots who take your job should pay taxes

Commentary: Tech's elder statesman says that we can't just give up the taxes that humans pay.

2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

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Make the robots pay?

Quartz/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Engineers are busy making machines that are better than humans.

They haven't, though, thought through all the implications of robot supremacy.

Thankfully, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has devoted a little time to wondering about the economics of it all.

In an interview with Quartz, he suggested that robots shouldn't get away with not paying taxes.

Yes, I know that several prominent humans are said to follow a tax-avoidance strategy. Gates, though, insists that robots should be denied access to the sort of accountants who know how to operate tax-free.

"If a human worker does $50,000 of work in a factory, that income is taxed," said Gates. "If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you'd think that we'd tax the robot at a similar level."

But, wait. Does the robot actually make money and spend it on fast cars and carousing?

Not yet. However, taxes go to pay for vital social services, where human empathy is essential. Perhaps humans can be retrained to move into those sorts of services. "You can't give up that income tax," said Gates.

So how can we get the money out of the robots?

"Some of it can come on the profits that are generated by the labor-saving efficiency there," he explained. "Some of it can come directly in some type of robot tax."

Might that mean, though, that employing humans could become quite cost-effective after all?

Having at least a few of them around would surely make for a cheerier workplace. I've never seen robots offer much banter on production lines.

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