Robot tax

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The development of artificial intelligence (“AI”), in particular relative to robots, has gained increasing importance worldwide. First used exclusively in the industrial sector, the use of robots has now extended to all aspects of our life, including services and entertainment.[1][2]

The progression of robots’ impact on our society necessarily requires new reflections, which, in addition to the ethical question, also imply social, economic, legal and job problems. Legislative resolutions will have to be adopted, which will in particular deal with the taxation of the use of robots, under penalty of serious consequences on world growth.Indeed, without legislative intervention, the scheme would be as follows:

- On the one hand, the constant replacement of human activities by robots will have a major impact on employment. In the absence of adequate taxation, the situation is likely to cause serious tax losses and increase the social security deficit;

- On the other hand, the loss of employment resulting from the hiring of robots instead of human beings will generate the need for additional financial resources, in particular in order to ensure a social minimum as well as professional reintegration.[3]

Leaders of the industrial and scientific communities argue that, to offset the social costs created by automation’s displacement effects, either robots should pay income tax, or their owners should pay a tax for replacing a worker with a robot. Further, "robot tax" should be used to finance a universal basic income or guaranteed living wage.[4] Bill Gates said the solution to the problem is simple, the government should start taxing robots i.e. make the robot owners cough up the money needed to re-establish the defunct workforce. Such opinion is however highly criticized. For example, Mr Andrus Ansip, EU Commissioner tasked with bringing Europe to the digital age, is against such opinion. Mr Andrus Ansip considers that a robot tax would only mean someone else would take the leading position and leave Europe behind.[5] Tshilidzi Marwala argues that many systems we use today have intelligent and robotics features and these make the task of taxing robots very difficult to achieve.[6]

Thus, a new form of fiscal capacity (contributive capacity) should emerge with the development of robot autonomy.

The taxation of robots or their use presupposes a clear legal definition of their status. The idea is to envisage the creation of a new type of legal personality. Several definitions have been proposed, which generally focus on the autonomy and decision-making process of robots.[7] On 1 January 2017, the European Union Parliament approved a report, accompanied by various recommendations, which envisages the emergence of an “electronic personality of robots".[8] In tax matters, the central character should be the use of artificial intelligence, which will allow the robot to make its own decisions, to be autonomous and to learn, characteristics that go far beyond the state of a simple machine, and this regardless of its mechanical appearance.

The recognition of a legal personality specific to robots also implies the recognition of an electronic contributory capacity, which would allow characterising robots as legal persons, vested with various rights and obligations. Robots would consequently become fiscal subjects and become subject to special taxation.

However, even if robots can replace a paid human activity, they do not yet have their own ability to pay (taxable income). It is not the robot as such that must be imposed but its use. A contributory capacity specific to robots could be admitted when the technology will allow robots to allocate them a capacity of payment (electronic liquidity, capital, etc.).[9]

When a fiscal capacity of robots has been recognized, several types of taxation could be considered. Assuming that the robot replaces a salaried human activity, one could consider a tax on the “hypothetical salary attributable" to the robot, which would correspond to the income that the human being would earn for an equivalent job.[10][11]

Proponents of a robot tax[edit]

Antagonists of a robot tax[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Oberson, Xavier (1 January 2017). "Taxer les robots?, L'émergence d'une capacité contributive électronique". Pratique juridique actuelle, Dike Verlag AG: 232. Retrieved 22 August 2018. 
  2. ^ Oberson, Xavier (6 July 2016). "Taxer les robots?". Bilan: 16. 
  3. ^ Oberson, Xavier (1 November 2017). "Vers une imposition des robots ou de leur usage ?". Expert Focus, EXPERTsuisse: 896. 
  4. ^ Varoufakis, Yanis. "A Tax on Robots?". Innovation & Technology. Retrieved 4 March 2017. 
  5. ^ Chakraborty, Anish. "Robot Tax?". Blogarama. Blogarama.com. Retrieved 20 August 2017. 
  6. ^ Marwala, Tshilidzi. "On Robot Revolution and Taxation" (PDF). arXiv. Cornell University Library. Retrieved 7 August 2018. 
  7. ^ Oberson, Xavier (2017). "Taxer les robots?, L'émergence d'une capacité contributive électronique". Pratique juridique actuelle, Dike Verlag AG: 234. 
  8. ^ Parlement européen. "Report with Recommendations to the Commission on Civil Law Rules on Robot-ics". 
  9. ^ Oberson, Xavier (4 April 2017). "Taxing Robots ? From the Emergence of an Electronic Ability to Pay to a Tax on Robots or the Use of Robots". World Tax Journal. 9, n. 2. 
  10. ^ Oberson, Xavier (2017). "Taxer les robots?, L'émergence d'une capacité contributive électronique". Pratique juridique actuelle, Dike Verlag AG: 236. 
  11. ^ Oberson, Xavier (4 April 2017). "Taxing Robots ? From the Emergence of an Electronic Ability to Pay to a Tax on Robots or the Use of Robots". World Tax Journal. 9, n. 2. 
  12. ^ French, Sally. "Bill Gates says robots should be taxed like humans". Retrieved 4 March 2017. 
  13. ^ "Elon Musk: Robots will take your jobs, government will have to pay your wage". CNBC. Retrieved 4 March 2017. 
  14. ^ Bolton, Doug. "Stephen Hawking says robots could make us all rich and free – but we're more likely to end up poor and unemployed". Independent. Retrieved 4 March 2017. 
  15. ^ Oberson, Xavier. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xavier_Oberson.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ Oberson, Xavier. http://www.xavieroberson.com/.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ "EU Commissioner Says No to Bill Gates' Robot Tax Idea". Retrieved 17 June 2017.