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What employers and employees should expect in Budget 2023

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PwC’s Doone O’Doherty predicts how Budget 2023 might affect workers and employers, and measures the Government should consider.

Budget 2023 should be viewed as an opportunity for the Government to take clear and effective measures to alleviate the cost of living burden.

Realistically, however, individuals are unlikely to feel better off. Rather, the measures are expected to provide a buffer to protect businesses and households from the worst of the hit. For individuals, we will likely see increases to tax credits and rate bands rather than the introduction of a new 30pc tax rate – the latter seems to have run into the sand over the last couple of weeks.

Either way, the steps taken should have the impact of boosting take home pay and helping employees retain more of their earnings. This would also indirectly ensure that businesses are under less pressure to deliver pay increases.

At the same time, the Government should expand its existing supports for businesses in the context of sustaining employment and recruiting and retaining talent.

Reduction in personal tax burden

There are a number of key considerations in the area of personal and tax employment tax changes. It is expected that we will see a reduction to personal tax burdens through either increases to tax bands and credits or the introduction of a 30pc tax rate, albeit the latter is now looking unlikely.

Clarity is also needed on whether formal indexation of the personal tax system will be introduced, now or in the future. This would see increases to bands and credit apply automatically every year, in line with inflation or wage growth.

PRSI rates for employees, employers and the self-employed remain in the spotlight. While not popular, incremental increases may be on the cards to support the Social Insurance Fund.

Finally, with many people now availing of some form of hybrid or remote working, and given the increasing cost of living and rising energy prices, an increase in the percentage of light, heat and broadband costs which can be claimed would be welcome (currently at 30pc for days spent working from home).

Also, it would be good to see some measures which would reduce the administrative burden on employees in claiming this amount which must currently be done by filing a tax return and submitting bills.

Practical supports for business

As businesses are now looking to put the pandemic era firmly in the rear-view mirror, Budget 2023 will be set against a backdrop of rising economic uncertainty.

Many businesses, particularly in the retail and hospitality sectors, face winter months where the impact of rising costs and reduced customer sentiment are likely to be felt. In addition, employers will face further costs once the Sick Leave Act is brought into operation under ministerial order.

This will see employers obliged to pay sick leave of 70pc of an employee’s salary subject to a cap of €110 per day for up to three statutory sick days per year. This three-day threshold will be increased to five days in year two, seven days in year three, and 10 days in year four.

Auto-enrolment also remains firmly on the horizon for employers. It is due to come into effect in 2024 and will see employees enrolled automatically into workplace pension schemes, with matching employer contributions and a State top-up.

Against this backdrop, we would like to see the introduction of practical supports for employers such as the extension of the Special Assignee Relief Programme (SARP) relief beyond 31 December 2022.

The relief is an important component in Ireland’s competitive foreign direct investment offering and has proved very valuable in attracting talent to Ireland across a range of sectors.

A headshot of a woman with dark hair wearing a yellow top.

Doone O’Doherty. Image: PwC

Additionally, consideration should be given to the extension and reform of the Key Employee Engagement Programme (KEEP) scheme, particularly in relation to the application of capital gains tax treatment to the disposal of shares by participants of the scheme, which can only be achieved in very limited circumstances at present. Again, this would be welcomed by businesses as a means of attracting and retaining talent.

An increase to the small benefit exemption cap to €1,000 (from currently €500) would also be welcome by employers to give businesses further flexibility to reward employees in a tax-efficient and straightforward manner.

Some other measures I would like to see introduced in the upcoming Budget include the creation of tax-efficient incentives for employers within the private business sector to let properties to staff as a simple and quick means of supporting current housing supply constraints.

I would also welcome consideration of a deferral of the planned changes to the company car benefit-in-kind regime, which is due to come into effect on 1 January 2023. The planned changes will see the benefit-in-kind rate based on a combination of business mileage and the vehicle’s emissions, and is likely to see many employees adversely impacted in comparison to the current regime.

Budget 2023 is rightly positioned as a ‘cost of living’ budget. From a personal and employment tax perspective, the focus will be on tackling short-term inflationary pressures and giving households and businesses a ‘buffer’ against cost-of-living increases.

By Doone O’Doherty

Doone O’Doherty is a tax partner in the people and organisation department at PwC Ireland.

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Tesla has a bit of work to do on Optimus robot • The Register

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Tesla headlined its AI Day 2022 event on Friday with the reveal of its “Optimus” robot prototype, showing just how much work was left to do on the project.

While the demo was certainly more robotic than last year’s dancer in a onesie, the lumbering mess of cables was far from the sleek and sexy design faithful Muskites might expect from the EV maker.

CEO and founder Elon Musk said before the curtains opened: “I do want to set some expectations with respect to our Optimus robot. As you know, last year it was just a person in a robot suit, but we’ve come a long way and, you know, compared to that, it’s going to be impressive.”

But in a world accustomed to the back-flipping bots of Boston Dynamics, Optimus was less than impressive. A mechanical engineer stepped in to inform the audience that this was the first time the robot was run “without any backup support – cranes, mechanical mechanisms, no cables, nothing.”

Tesla Optimus protoype

Tesla’s ‘rough development robot’

The prototype managed to rotate its arms, then tottered to the forefront to give the audience a wave, before walking back as a screen failed to close. “This is essentially the same self-driving computer that runs in Tesla cars by the way,” an Autopilot engineer proclaimed.

The event then showed videos of the robot picking up and putting down objects, and watering plants. “What you saw … was our rough development robot using semi-off-the-shelf actuators. But … we actually have an Optimus bot with fully Tesla-designed and built actuators, battery pack, control system, everything.”

This version, which was then pushed onto the stage, was a little more “Tesla” – slimmer, neater, shinier. Only one problem: it can’t walk. “I think it will walk in a few weeks,” Musk said, “but we wanted to show you something that’s fairly close to what will go into production.”

Clumsily wheeled out by staff, it also managed a couple more waves and did the splits from the rod on which it was mounted.

“Our goal is to make a useful humanoid robot as quickly as possible,” Musk said. “We’ve also designed it using the same discipline we use in designing the car, which is to say to design a form of manufacturing such that it is possible to make the robot in high volume at low cost with higher liability.

“You’ve all seen very impressive humanoid robots demonstrations, and that’s great, but what are they missing? They’re missing a brain. They don’t have the intelligence to navigate the world by themselves. They’re also very expensive and made in low volume. Optimus is designed to be an extremely capable robot but made in very high volume – ultimately millions of units – and it’s expected to cost much less than a car, so probably less than $20,000.”

That’s one expensive Roomba.

Accepting that there was “a lot of work to be done to refine Optimus and improve it,” Musk said the aim of the event was convince more AI and mechanical engineers to join the company to bring the project “to fruition at scale” and “help millions of people.”

He then waxed lyrical about an economy where there was “not a limitation on capita,” which could then become “quasi-infinite,” implying that he hopes Tesla’s robots might one day replace humans on production lines.

“This means a future of abundance,” he said. “A future where there is no poverty, where you can have whatever you want in terms of products and services. It really is a fundamental transformation of civilization as we know it.”

As if to reference his belief that AI is humanity’s “biggest existential threat,” he added: “Obviously, we want to make sure that transformation is a positive one and safe,” claiming that Tesla’s public ownership model was the right way to achieve this.

While not quite the disasterpiece of the Cybertruck reveal, going by what was shown at the AI Day, such a utopia is still far away. ®

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Dublin proptech constructing an operating system for buildings

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The SpaceOS platform sets out to create smart workplaces as the world wises up to the future of hybrid, flexible and sustainable work.

“We believe that buildings have been failing to answer people’s needs for decades,” said Marley Fabisiewicz. “We’re making them more convenient and human-centric with technology, while feeding the property managers and real estate developers with data.”

That, in a nutshell, is what proptech start-up SpaceOS is all about. “The real estate industry is a dinosaur,” said co-CEO Fabisiewicz, whose vision is to realise its digital transformation through developing tech-enabled workspaces. “Our mission is to help companies attract, retain, inspire and empower their people by creating dynamic and digitised workplace communities.”

Headquartered in Dublin, SpaceOS offers a workplace experience platform that Fabisiewicz said “turns smartphones into remote controls for the workplace”. The name derives from the concept of creating “an operating system for buildings”.

What this involves, Fabisiewicz explained, is digitising physical assets and providing APIs to integrate existing business technologies, such as access control. “[SpaceOS] covers everything from opening doors and booking desks and rooms, to ordering food, registering guests and sending out invoices, all blended seamlessly into daily workflows,” he said.

“Because of its modular structure, SpaceOS is ready to integrate with a variety of platforms to meet the specific requirements of any workspace infrastructure. It connects all stakeholders, reduces inputs and costs, provides insights, and offers smart management tools. It provides building managers and users with transparency, cost efficiency and real-time information, while focusing on the user experience.”

‘Dynamic workspaces are shaping the future of work’
– MARLEY FABISIEWICZ

Fabisiewicz sees the platform as essential to the transformed modern workplace. “We are targeting building owners, tenants, and managers. With a high demand for spaces to fit varying needs in a modern work environment, dynamic workspaces are shaping the future of work,” he said.

“However, current building management tools were typically designed before hybrid working became mainstream. As a result, they are inflexible and lack the adaptability and technology necessary to make today’s workspaces more efficient, while reducing operating costs.”

Demand for SpaceOS could also be employee-driven, Fabisiewicz explained, as modern workers demand systems that enable flexibility, engagement and sustainable practices. Clients can use the platform to deliver push notifications for news, events or community updates, and the service also offers detail data on carbon emissions, to support net-zero initiatives.

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals have been a focal point of the start-up in the past year, leading to a partnership with Germany company Aedifion, which provides a cloud-based platform to collate data on buildings’ energy consumption.

“This collaboration allows property owners and managers to offer tenants a real-time visualisation of metrics regarding their energy usage and carbon emissions. This is the basis for transparency, and a step to make everyone in the workplace become a sustainability activist, supporting the decarbonisation of buildings,” said Fabisiewicz.

“We are currently working on managing heating, ventilation and energy based on occupancy and capacity data, to decarbonise buildings even more effectively. Future integrations will also allow tenants to remote-control HVAC, blinds, lights and more, through the SpaceOS app.”

‘The landscape has changed significantly since the markets tanked’
– MARLEY FABISIEWICZ

Serial entrepreneur Fabisiewicz also founded Upnext Technologies, a software and digital product development agency focused on the fintech industry.

SpaceOS was founded in 2017 by Fabisiewicz and his co-CEO Maciej Markowski, who has a background in real estate consultancy and proptech. “He has international experience in corporate workplace and change issues, advising major corporations on their workplace research, strategy and change management,” said Fabisiewicz.

So far, the founding duo have increased revenue three times over in the past 12 months and built up a strong client portfolio. “However, we are still in the early innings of the proptech game,” said Fabisiewicz. “Market saturation for tenant experience technology is at around 5pc globally, so there’s still a massive upside potential and room to grow.”

Of course, the present-day market disruptions present a challenging environment for growth and investment. “The landscape has changed significantly since the markets tanked,” said Fabisiewicz. “12 months ago, it was all about hypergrowth. Today, it’s all about how quickly you can become profitable.”

In Dublin, however, Fabisiewicz describes the start-up ecosystem as “a continuous boom” with “more money to be deployed by investors, more founders with great ideas, and a maturing ecosystem for start-ups in general”.

In his company’s case, SpaceOS is looking for “smart money” that offers more than a cash injection. Fabisiewicz is seeking investors who “not only write a cheque, but also support in building the business”.

“I believe especially in proptech this is essential for a successful start-up,” he said.

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk showcases humanoid robot – video | Technology

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Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, showcased his humanoid robot, Optimus, at the electric vehicle maker’s AI Day event. The billionaire has said a robot business will be worth more than its carmaking business. At the event a prototype of the robot walked on stage and waved to the audience. And a video of it carrying a box, watering plants and moving metal bars in the Tesla factory was shown.’Our goal is to make a useful humanoid robot as quickly as possible,’ Musk said at the event in Palo Alto, California.

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