I was having a conversation the other day, and it came up whether there should be a much higher rate of tax on digital goods and services. Now I am talking about everything here from online stores, to helplines and even automation within the workplace. If you look at the way “bricks and mortar” stores are folding now, because everybody is buying online, something needs to be done about it. There must be something we can do to help these people out of the situation of being severely disadvantaged in comparison to online stores. Now there are still people that do support these stores but not enough that they will be viable in the long term.
I do not blame the consumer in the slightest for choosing the online option, if you can get a product or service that is reasonably priced with the minimum of effort on the buyer’s part, why would you not take that option. So, I understand it makes perfect sense from that point of view. I also have no issues with retailers and service providers that decide to take the online step as their primary mode of business. At the end of the day on nearly all cases, you are going to have less overhead when compared to the “bricks and mortar” shop. What I would like to see is either some raise in taxes for online businesses. However, this would most likely be passed onto the customer which would not be great. The other thing that could happen is some tax breaks for “bricks and mortar” businesses to bring them in line with their online counterparts.
The bigger issue in all this will be the way that automation is taking over in the workplace, now it seems strange that I am going to reference a workers’ revolution from the 16th Century, and I am by no means saying the workers should attack the machinery with their “Sabot”. However, I do think that there is a real concern about job losses due to the amount of automation that will happen within the workplace in the next 10-15 years.
Maybe it is time to put some surcharge on automation. The thing I worry about in doing this though is that it will end up stifling technology and that would be the last thing that I want to do. There have been some fantastic advances over the previous 40 years, and long may this continue. Whoever makes the decisions on the way digital services, goods and automation going forward has no easy job and indeed not a task I would like to take on.