Tax Amazon Facebook and Apple more for UK universal pay study

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Britain could raise new taxes on Amazon, Facebook and Apple to give every citizen under the age of 55 as much as £10,000 in a form of universal basic income (UBI), according to a study, helping to counter the growing risk of job losses from automation and artificial intelligence.

The Royal Society of Arts is proposing that the government develop fresh taxes on tech firms, introduce wealth taxes, or borrow money from the financial markets to create a Norwegian-style sovereign wealth fund to pay for UBI.

Citizens could apply for up to £5,000 annually from the fund for up to two years to help with learning or training costs, social care, or for new business, in exchange for losing some benefits such as jobseeker’s allowance and tax credits.

The idea from the thinktank led by Matthew Taylor, who recently carried out the landmark review of employment and the gig economy on behalf of Theresa May, builds on the concept of providing citizens with a UBI as a solution to the mass unemployment that could result from robots replacing workers. The Bank of England estimates as many as 15m jobs could be at risk.

Proponents of UBI tend to hail from the radical left, although the idea also wins support from neoliberal thinkers on the right, who argue it could encourage entrepreneurialism and replace state benefits.

Finland has run a trial paying 2,000 unemployed people aged 25 to 58 a monthly €560 (£497), while the Scottish government has four councils testing the idea and the Labour party is also looking into it.

Providing a £5,000 annual payment for two years could cost about £14.5bn per year over a decade should there be full take-up, according to the RSA. While the cost could be as much as £462bn, removing some benefits and tax reliefs from the people who claim money from the fund would save about £273bn.