AAT: Proposals to tax robots would be self-defeating

Thursday, July 5, 2018
image: human robot handshake

The Business Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee (BEIS)  launched an inquiry into automation’s future potential adverse effects or opportunities for productivity within the workplace. Within this inquiry comes the recommendations to tax enterprise robots, which AAT has thoroughly rejected. 

Like other industries, accounting is experiencing increasing automation. However, there is an undisputable link between automation and productivity, therefore AAT finds the phenomenon something to welcome, rather than fear. Despite widespread variation, rapid increases in the use of technology by accountancy firms large and small are taking place, and much is driven by government-led changes such as Making Tax Digital (MTD).

AAT believes that if new technologies are introduced effectively and fairly, the plethora of potential advantages must be embraced. For example, in a recent survey of AAT members, 60 per cent said that they believe basic accountancy processes will be fully automated within the next five years but this was not viewed as a negative because 89 per cent viewed advances in technology as positive for the accountancy sector.

AAT concludes that taxing robots would be completely self-defeating, counter-productive and limiting to employee income. Overall, AAT is confident that investment in technologies like automation, will strengthen productivity and make companies in the UK more competitive.

AAT Head of Public Affairs & Public Policy, Phil Hall, said;

Whilst some jobs will be lost because of automation, it is likely that many more will be created. A robot tax would undermine investment, limit employee skills and income, and risks relegating British business and the British economy to second or third tier status. 

It is perhaps understandable that structural change brought about by technology and automation could bring a level of nervousness amongst policymakers, but taking a 19th century approach to the subject would undoubtedly prove ruinous.