UK MPs grill Google over Irish-based tax companies

UK MPs accused Google yesterday of trying to fool Britons into believing it was a proponent of tax reform while remaining a prime beneficiary of loopholes in existing rules, and said if it was sincere the company would be more transparent over its tax affairs.

Google’s president for Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), Matt Brittin, told the UK parliamentary Public Accounts Committee the company had paid all the tax that it should, but wanted the international tax system reformed.

However, Stewart Jackson, a Conservative member of the committee, questioned claims the company was trying to be open about its affairs.

“You sort of pose as an enlightened helper to the public debate,” he said.

“And that the wicked awful tax system across the world somehow just happened to Google, whereas actually you’ve made a choice to avoid tax and set up structures specifically so to do.”

Mr Brittin was appearing before the committee for the third time in four years, just weeks after Google had announced a controversial £130m (€167m) backtax deal with the UK.

Google pays an effective tax rate of around 5% on non-US profits by channelling earnings from clients in EMEA and Asia into a Bermuda-based, Irish registered company, a Reuters analysis of company filings shows.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are investigating five managers at Google as part of a probe into allegations the firm evaded taxes worth €227m in Italy between 2009 and 2013.

Google said in a statement that “Google complies with the tax laws in every country where we operate. We continue to work with the relevant authorities.”

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