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Opinion

No, Robots Should Not Be Taxed

By Robert Seamans

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There’s no question that the potential increase in robots and automation requires policy makers to rethink fiscal policy for the 21st century.

Proposals to tax robots have been debated by serious folks recently. The European Union considered but ultimately rejected the idea of taxing firms that use robots. And last week Quartz published an interview with Bill Gates in which he argues for a robot tax. These proposals follow a spate of recent articles on robots and automation, some of which argue there will be large job losses from robots and automation. These articles include one in the New Yorker, which profiled books by Martin Ford, Jerry Kaplan, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, and David Autor's article on workplace automation in Journal of Economic Perspectives, among others.

There’s no question that the potential increase in robots and automation requires policy makers to rethink fiscal policy for the 21st century (and other policy as well, such as education and retraining policy). But, based on the data we currently have, a tax on robots would be bad policy. Robot taxes would dissuade firms from investing in robots, which would lower economic growth, and, to the extent that robots complement labor in some cases, would lead to less hiring and lower wage growth.

Read the full article as published in Forbes
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Robert Seamans is Associate Professor of Management and Organizations.