Certainly there will be taxes that relate to automation.
Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a
factory, that income is taxed and you get income tax, social security
tax, all those things. If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d
think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.
A robot that does a job earns income for its owner. If the owner is an individual, that income gets taxed—income tax, social security tax, all those things. If the owner is a corporation, the income pays corporate income tax then is paid to the stockholders as dividends and taxed again, although at a lower rate than ordinary income.
Gates is proposing that we replace the double tax with a triple tax.
I expect one could construct arguments for special taxes on capital that replaces labor that were not absurd, although there is no particular reason to focus on robots—capital has been substituting for labor at least since the invention of the plow, probably longer.
But this one is either stupidity, unlikely in the case of Gates, or blatant demagoguery.