TECHNOLOGY GIANT GOOGLE is to pay £130 million (€172 million) in back taxes to Britain following a government inquiry into its tax arrangements, a company spokeswoman has said.
It follows a six-year probe by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in response to controversy over low taxes paid by multinational corporations which operate in Britain but have headquarters elsewhere.
“We have agreed with HMRC a new approach for our UK taxes and will pay £130 million, covering taxes since 2005,” a Google spokeswoman said.
The way multinational companies are taxed has been debated for many years and the international tax system is changing as a result. This settlement reflects that shift.
In future, Google will pay taxes in Britain according to revenue from advertisers based in Britain, something that “reflects the size and scope of our UK business”, the spokeswoman said.
The BBC reported that Google would now register a greater proportion of its sales activity in Britain rather than Ireland, where its European headquarters is based and which has a lower rate of corporation tax.
An HMRC spokesman welcomed the agreement.
“The successful conclusion of HMRC inquiries has secured a substantial result, which means that Google will pay the full tax due in law on profits that belong in the UK,” the spokesman said.
Multinational companies must pay the tax that is due and we do not accept less.
Finance minister claims victory
Britain’s finance minister George Osborne has vowed to close tax loopholes and introduce a so-called “Google tax” – the diverted profits tax – to stop firms moving profits abroad.
The opposition Labour Party’s finance spokesman John McDonnell said Google’s deal was “derisory”.
“This is relatively trivial in comparison with what should have been paid,” he told BBC radio.
Meg Hillier, who chairs parliament’s public accounts scrutiny committee, said international companies had been “running rings around tax officials”.
She said HMRC was “effectively admitting it pulled in too little tax from Google for 9 out of 10 years”.
Google is among several top technology firms under pressure over complex tax arrangements.
Apple agreed to pay Italy €318 million to settle a tax dispute last month, and in November world leaders of the Group of 20 top economies vowed to clamp down on schemes by multinationals to minimise tax.
The plan would force multinationals to pay tax in the country where their main business activity is based.
The OECD group of rich nations has estimated that national governments lose €90 – €210 billion, or 4 to 10% of global tax revenues, every year due to the tax-minimising schemes of multinationals.