Planet Business: Should robots pay tax?

Also in this week’s round-up: Pie-gate, Brexit price-movers, and a sorry yacht story

The futuristic Philippe Starck-designed €400m “Sailing Yacht A”, property of Russian industrialist Andrey Melnichenko.

The futuristic Philippe Starck-designed €400m “Sailing Yacht A”, property of Russian industrialist Andrey Melnichenko.


In numbers: Stepping back


Number of years since Clarks Shoes was founded by Quaker brothers James and Cyrus Clark in a town called Street in Somerset, England.


Number of stores the still family-owned chain now has across the UK and Ireland. However, the retailer has appointed property consultants to carry out a review of all its stores in a move that could lead to closures.


Percentage plunge in C&J Clark’s (trading as Clarks) pre-tax profits last year, despite a 2.6 per cent rise in revenue. New boss Mike Shearwood wants to modernise its shops and transform the brand, declaring “the shoe is the star”.

Image of the week: Yacht arrest

Terrible story, this. No, really. The futuristic, Philippe Starck-designed vessel pictured is “Sailing Yacht A”, the world’s largest sailing yacht and the €400 million property of Russian industrialist Andrey Melnichenko. Alas for the fertiliser and coal tycoon, while the Bermuda-registered superyacht was on its merry way to being delivered to him it found itself “under arrest” and impounded by the Gibraltar Port Authority. This horrific misunderstanding and inconvenience to Mr Melnichenko follows a legal filing from German shipbuilder Nobiskrug, which is seeking what it says is an outstanding payment of €9.8 million plus about €5.5 million in subcontractor payments and interest charges. The ocean may be vast, but there’s definitely a moral here somewhere. And an invoice.

The lexicon: Robot tax

Bloody robots. They glide about, taking our jobs, and they don’t even have the decency to pay taxes. No wonder they look so smug. But according to Bill Gates, robots should pay taxes just like the rest of us – or rather their human employers should pay tax on their robot labour – in order to make up for the lost taxes from workers whose jobs may be destroyed by automation. The Microsoft founder told business site Quartz that governments need to tax robots “at a similar level” to human workers. The main counter-arguments are that such a tax might hamper innovation and where do you draw the line between a robot and a humble piece of software anyway? “It is really bad if people overall have more fear about what innovation is going to do than they have enthusiasm,” says Gates. Robots that can do your tax return, now there’s a thought.

Getting to know: Wayne Shaw

Wayne Shaw (46) is odds-on favourite to become the official “pie-taster” of British supermarket Morrisons, which wants to pay him with a year’s supply of pies, and this is in the news because . . . where to begin? Until Tuesday, the rotund Shaw was the reserve goalkeeper at London football club Sutton United, but he resigned after going viral for eating a meat and potato pie in the dug-out during his club’s FA Cup tie against Arsenal. He wasn’t just peckish. Sun Bets, the one-off shirt sponsor for the match, had tweeted odds of 8 to 1 that he would be pictured eating a pie during the match and that’s what happened. The UK’s Gambling Commission and the FA are now launching investigations into a possible breach of betting rules, suspecting the whole thing to be a wee bit unsavoury.

The list: Brexit price movers

Post-referendum times have not been the easiest on the pockets of sterling-zone consumers, as the subsequent collapse in the pound has pushed numerous household name-brands into increasing their prices.

1. Lego: Cross looks abounded after a 5 per cent increase on the price of Lego bricks in January. Won’t someone think of the children?

2. Unilever: It resolved its big dispute with Tesco, but the consumer goods giant still put up prices, paving the way for other suppliers to either do the same or reduce their pack sizes.

3. Apple: With the shrinkflation option less readily available to tech companies, App Store prices have risen 25 per cent in the UK, while Mac computers are now as much as £500 pricier.

4. Microsoft: Before PC users get too smug, a 15 per cent Brexit-related price rise means some Surface and Surface Book computers will now cost £400 more.

5: Sonos: No, not even wireless home sound systems are safe.