Robot vs. tax inspector or how the fourth industrial revolution will change the tax system: a review of problems and solutions

Valentine P. Vishnevsky, Viktoriia D. Chekina


The Fourth Industrial Revolution and the accelerated development of cyber-physical technologies lead to essential changes in national tax systems and international taxation. The main areas in which taxation meets cyber-physical technologies are digitalization, robotization, M2M and blockchain technologies. Each of these areas has its own opportunities and problems. Three main approaches towards possible solutions for these new problems are identified. The first is to try to apply taxation to new cyber-physical technologies and products of their application. This approach includes the OECD’s Action 1 Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting. It also includes the spread of traditional taxes on new objects — personal data, cryptocurrencies, imputed income of robots. The second is to replace digital transactions and shortfalls in revenues by traditional objects of taxation in the form of tangible assets and people and / or increase tax pressure (including by improving tax administration with use of Big Data) and the degree of progressiveness of taxes already levied on such objects. The third approach is to set a course on building a new tax space with smart taxes based on real-time principles, smart contracts and Big Data. This implies a transition to automatic taxation using blockchain technologies, which focus on the functions of applying distributed ledgers of business transactions in real-time. At present, the general trends are such that the first and second are prevalent, which is manifested in an increase in the relative importance of property, sales and employment taxes. Concerning the third approach, any movement in this direction is still facing a number of technical and other problems and is thus being discussed mainly at the conceptual level


1. Production technologies and taxes are dialectically linked. Therefore, the accelerated development of cyber-physical systems leads to substantial transformations of national taxes and international taxation

2. It is established that there are three main areas where taxes meet new cyber-physical technologies and where new fiscal opportunities and problems arise — digitalization, robotics, M2M and blockchain technologies

3. Three main approaches to solving emerging problems of taxation are stressed: the first entails extended tax coverage of new cyber-physical technologies and products of their use; the second involves the replacement of digital transactions and shortfalls in revenues by objects of taxation in the form of tangible assets and people; while the third envisages the construction of a new tax space with smart taxes based on real-time principles, smart contracts and Big Data

For citation

Vishnevsky V. P., Chekina V. D. Robot vs. tax inspector or how the fourth industrial revolution will change the tax system: a review of problems and solutions. Journal of Tax Reform, 2018, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 6–26. DOI: 10.15826/jtr.2018.4.1.042

Article info

Received March 14, 2018; accepted April 10, 2018



Cyber-physical technologies, digitalization, blockchain, taxes on digital goods, taxes in Big Data, taxes on robots, taxes on cryptocurrencies


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Copyright (c) 2018 Valentine P. Vishnevsky, Viktoriia D. Chekina

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