Sunday April 23, 2017

If a robot takes your job should it pay taxes too?

In early 2017, Microsoft founder Bill Gates made the intriguing suggestion that a robot worker should be taxed at a level similar to a human worker.

In early 2017, Microsoft founder Bill Gates made the intriguing suggestion that a robot worker should be taxed at a level similar to a human worker.

Listen 5:42

The tax filing deadline that's fast approaching here in Canada is a reminder of the inevitability of taxes for all of us.

But how about robots?

If a robot takes your job, should it pay taxes too?    

Earlier this year, Microsoft founder Bill Gates made the intriguing suggestion that a robot worker should be taxed at a level similar to a human worker.

And that got one politician in San Francisco thinking about how a robot tax might help deal with the problem of job loss caused by automation.  

353 Jane Kim

Jane Kim

Jane Kim is on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

She's one of 11 elected members of the legislative branch of the City and County of San Francisco.

She's decided to put together a working group to study how an automation tax would actually work.  

She says they have been reaching out to tech companies in San Francisco, local universities, and local labour unions to take part in this discussion.

Jane wants this working group to gain a better understanding of the scope of the issue, figure out which jobs are most likely to be affected, and figure out how to be prepared for job losses caused by automation.

One of the areas they want to study is if a robot tax could help slow down job displacement.

She believes it's crucial for government to be ready for the jobs of tomorrow.

"We want to make sure that government is prepared and that we're not asleep at the wheel."

She also wants to look into other ideas being proposed to deal with automation such as a universal basic income.

Jane believes it's important for San Francisco to take the lead on dealing with automation because they are the hub of the technology industry.

"In some ways geographically we are in a great position to come up with some strong policy solutions for this upcoming challenge."