Korea extends factory automation tax break, is accused of levying 'robot taxes' anyway

Due to expire in 2017, subsidy gets two-year reprieve

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It's not quite a “robot tax”, but South Korea appears to be sufficiently worried about the impact of automation on its workforce to consider withdrawing tax breaks for manufacturers that buy “robots”.

As one of the world's major factory nations, South Korea country is concerned that a too-rapid expansion of automation in heavy industry has the potential to strain both social structures and government coffers.

The Korea Times reports that the Moon Jae-in government is therefore considering reducing corporate tax breaks of three to seven per cent that now apply to industry automation equipment. The deductions vary according to the size of the business.

But there's also an olive branch to industry: instead of sunsetting the tax deduction at the end of this year, as originally planned, it will continue until 2019, albeit cut by as much as two per cent.

In other words, rather than abandon the subsidy according to its original timeline, the government (probably in response to industry representations) is letting the subsidy run for two extra years at a lower rate.

That hasn't prevented outlets like Bloomberg's BNA filing the South Korean proposal under the general heading of “robot tax”. That's a hot term thanks to being floated by Bill Gates earlier this year, as the former Microsoft man wondered why human labour is taxed but robotic replacement workers contribute nothing to government coffers. ®

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