Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Taxing Times for Robots ?



CNBC.com ( 17 Feb 2017 ) carries following news report  :

Bill Gates: Job-stealing robots should pay income taxes “

 

CPAs of the world, take note of a whole new potential client base: According to Bill Gates, if a robot is going to do a human's job, it should also pay a person's income taxes.
"If a human worker does $50,000 of work in a factory, that income is taxed," says Gates in a recent interview with Quartz editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney. "If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you'd think we'd tax the robot at a similar level."
Gates is actually optimistic about the prospect of a workforce made up significantly of robots and, in the interview, he emphasizes the jobs humans will still, and always, be needed to do.
Still, tax revenue is essential to making training and new, irreplaceable jobs available to human workers.
"You can't just give up that income tax," he says. "Some of it can come on the profits that are generated by the labor-saving efficiency there. Some of it can come directly from some type of robot tax."
And the companies making money building this robot workforce ?
Gates speculates they'll be just fine with the idea of a robo-worker that's required to pay its due.

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Now , Bill , being a pragmatist , could not mean this seriously !


He is too intelligent to have overlooked the following :

·         When one salaried worker gets replaced by another salaried worker, computation of taxes payable by the employer, is a straight forward matter .

·         But who is expert enough to decide how many salaried workers , does a robot replace ?  It could be just ONE or even THREE , at another point of time  !  Scope for endless litigation !

·         Most factory workers possess ONE skill ( eg: welding / machining / fabrication / painting / assembling etc )
But , more often than not , one Robot possesses many skills simultaneously and replaces many workers , at one go ( - and no issues of line-balancing / coordination / coffee breaks / leaves / sicknesses etc disrupting the team ! )

·         Even if employers have to pay taxes ( of course , on behalf of the robots ! ) , they would be more than happy to do so ( - and replace human workers )


Reason ?



A Robot ,




·         works 24 hours/day and does not ask for a salary / increment / bonus

·         does not " go slow "or go on a strike

·         does not demand " Quotas / Reservations "

·         does not take holidays or take " Sick Leave "

·         does not resign / demand promotion

·         neither envies other robots nor sabotage their output

·         does not complain against unpleasant work

·         does not get tired and need rest

·         does not slow down after working for 8 hours

·         does not demand " Overtime Pay " @ 200 % of normal

·         perfectly co-ordinates its tasks with other robots

·         willingly " retires / gets replaced " at any age , whenever required

·         is easy to “ Re-Skill / Re-program “ , within hours

·         does not demand Unemployment / Retirement Benefits  ( PF / Gratuity etc )



THAT BRINGS UP THE QUESTIONS :


·          What is a robot ? Does it always have moving parts and be present at the place of work ?

·          Does it have to have  any “ Human-like “ attributes ?  eg : Walk / Talk / Cry / Laugh  ?

·          Can it “ reproduce “ itself ?

·          Can it , one day become “ smarter “ than a human ? (Ray Kurzweil’s frightening “ Singularity)

·          Can humans using VR - AR headsets / Hepatic Gloves and operating machineries –     equipment – devices from thousands of kilometres away, be called “ Robots “ ? Eg :

#    A boy from Kolhapur loading / unloading in a Amazon Warehouse in New York

#   A girl from Nashik operating exoskeleton in Detroit , to help an old man out of bed ?

#   A eye surgeon in Mumbai removing a cataract in LA , using micro-surgery robot ?









And when ( not “ if “ ) that SINGULARITY arrives , do not be surprised if the robots have become smarter than the smartest human CPA / CA / Tax Consultant , to train their MASTERS / OWNERS / EMPLOYERS , on how to “ EVADE PAYING TAXES “ !


Or, claim to have their “ Substantial Presence “ in countries with no taxes of any kind !


Dear Bill :


Unless you are comfortable with the emergence of a world-encompassing BLACK ECONOMY , parish the idea of taxing the robots !



02  March 2017









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