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United Kingdom Businesses Communications Google

Google Settles Decade-Long Tax Dispute In UK ( 70

An anonymous reader writes: Alphabet, Inc., parent company to Google, has agreed to pay $185 million to settle UK taxes going back to 2005. The company has also agreed to adopt a new approach to taxes in the UK going forward. While this is a sizeable figure, many believe it is too little, and constitutes a sweetheart deal between the government and Google. Matt Brittin, the President of EMEA Business and Operations for Google, was a participant in a televised hearing today in which UK lawmakers questioned the $185 million settlement. He stated, "We find ourselves in the position where we are paying the tax that the tax authorities told us to pay."
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Google Settles Decade-Long Tax Dispute In UK

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  • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @08:58PM (#51491689) Journal
    Old [] news []
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The links you provide are old news, yes.


      > Matt Brittin, the President of EMEA Business and Operations for Google, was a participant in a televised hearing today

      *This* story is about the hearing which happened in the last 24 hours.

      • *This* story is about the hearing which happened in the last 24 hours.

        OK, there is some new news there, but the headline and the first half of the summary is about old news.

    • Re:Old news (Score:4, Interesting)

      by smallfries ( 601545 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @09:21PM (#51491813) Homepage

      So a company that controls a sizeable portion of the flow of information through the largest communications network in the world. Vast power over the importance and presentation of image. And it was given a sweet tax deal by a group of people whose careers depend entirely on their image as presented in the media.

      It may be old, but was it ever news?

      • There's probably financial reward for someone as well... at least once Google figure out how to give a non-exec position where someone as useless as George Osborne can't do any harm.

      • Re:Old news (Score:5, Informative)

        by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <> on Friday February 12, 2016 @06:24AM (#51493191) Homepage

        This isn't limited to just Google, most large companies do it. For example, in 2008 Starbucks claimed to have made a £26m loss, yet their cheif exec Howard Schultz told investors the business here was so successful he planned to apply the lessons to the company's biggest market in the US. Somehow they keep making these horrendous losses (to be fair their coffee is shit) and the bosses keep expressing their great satisfaction.

        In all Starbucks paid about £18m tax on £3bn profit over 18 years operating in the UK. If only I had known I could make £3bn profit by losing millions every year and paying next to no tax, I'd have been a billionaire long ago.

        • The greatest inequality in the world today is that individuals are taxed on income while companies are taxed on profits.

    • Re:Old news (Score:5, Informative)

      by Xest ( 935314 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @05:03AM (#51493027)

      The thing that's new about the story was the grilling Google's EMEA boss got in front of a parliamentary select committee yesterday and what came out of that.

      Whatever you think about large corps and taxes, that guy got absolutely slaughtered and it's incredible Google sent anyone that inept to represent themselves as it's done Google more harm than good on the tax front.

      The MPs basically asked him why Google has only paid 3% tax for the period when the rate is 20%, to which he replied that they do pay the 20% owed by law. They ask him on what figure the 20% was paid given that the tax paid only amounts to 3% of declared profit and he simply couldn't answer. This means he's either incredibly inept in that he was wholly unprepared to answer an obvious question on the topic at hand, or Google is afraid to admit how it comes to it's profit figure because it's still hiding something that may get it in bother - if it was legal and in good standing, why hide your profit figure that you're paying tax on?

      He was also asked if he felt the £130 million was fair, to which the Google guy replied yes, and then the MP followed up with the question "If it's fair, why didn't you pay it in the first place?", for which he had no answer. He was later asked a similar question as to whether he agreed the £130 million was legally owed, to which he answered yes.

      He claimed there's no legal mechanism to pay more tax in the UK and therefore he can't, to which it was pointed out that that's simply false.

      The problem is, even if you're of the belief that it's okay for companies like Google to only pay what is legally required, rather than what is intended, Google's exec here twice said the £130 million bill was both acceptable and legally owed, which inherently means that he has now admitted that Google didn't simply carry out tax avoidance, but carried out outright tax evasion.

      Which is why in my opinion the whole large corporation tax debacle isn't as clear as many have argued - the often parroted large corporation line of "We pay what we legally have to" is slowly unraveling, and it's becoming increasingly clear that large corps haven't even been paying what they legally have to, let alone what the law intended (even if badly). The fact is that in many jurisdictions where this is an issue it's simply not clear that these companies are merely only engaging in legal avoidance rather than illegal evasion whatever the companies themselves may now claim. At least one corporation, Google, has now admitted that it carried out tax evasion by accepting that it did in fact legally owe these £130 million in taxes but previously chose not to pay them.

      The question now really is what happens with all the other big players. In many ways Google may have gotten off easy by going first, because there's more pressure than ever for government to more tightly scrutinise these deals and to charge penalty costs (which Google was let off from). Google got off lightly for committing tax evasion in the UK, but it's not clear due to the backlash from that whether all the others will get off so lightly. We already know there will at least be some others given that Amazon and Starbucks' tax deal with Luxembourg has already previously been found to have been illegal.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        British government is stuck between rock and a hard place. If we made it "fair" for these foreign companies to pay tax in Britain, surely British companies will have to do the same in other countries?! Which we don't really want... hence softly-softly approach and "bad bad immoral company" to appease common folk.

        Britain, being on of the main beneficiaries of common/single/global market, designed this scheme in the first place. Bit of a problem now that the flow has reversed.

      • You've bought the whole corporate tax bit, hook, line and sinker. Corporate taxes are evil and should be abolished, not for the good of corporations, I don't care about them, but for the good of the people.

        Corporations don't pay taxes. Ever. Corporations are people, and people pay taxes. Shareholders pay taxes, employees pay taxes, suppliers and customers pay taxes -- except when the suppliers and customers are corporations. Every penny of tax ostensibly paid by a corporation is funded either by higher pr

        • by Xest ( 935314 )

          You're assuming I'm not aware of this, and yet you've explained yourself why you'll always struggle to get rid of them in practice - it's politically untenable to tell people you're drastically raising their taxes, even if you do explain to them that stuff they buy will become cheaper.

          I fully agree that in an ideal world we'd follow the path you suggest, and similarly I've always argued that true costs should be pursued in other ways. For example, I've long been an advocate of the fact that health service c

        • You have bought the Tea Party story, hook line and sinker.

          The effect of corporation taxes is mostly in reduced payouts to shareholders.

          We do know who owns corporations: overwhelmingly it is the top 1%. So what you are advocating is a tax cut for the 1%.

      • It was also illuminating that he doesn't know how much he himself is paid [].
  • by ihtoit ( 3393327 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @09:12PM (#51491775)

    can expect crawl-up-your-arse audits for the next lifetime. 2.5% tax is a fucking insult, compounded by the chancellor getting free fucking tickets to the Superbowl paid for by... FUCKING GOOGLE!

  • You pay the tax that you're told to pay? Wow. Just like those pesky little people out there, right?

    Just how much of an asshole do you have to be to get to that kind of attitude?

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @09:41PM (#51491901)
    Best case scenario is you avoid a shitload of taxes. Worst case scenario is that you negotiate your tax bill down after getting caught and still wind up paying less in taxes than you would've if you adhered to the tax regs to begin with. Seems like a win-win to me.
    • Tax avoidance is legal by definition. Why would anybody pay more then they were legally required? When millions are involved, it's worth hiring shysters. Duh.

      You are thinking of 'Tax evasion'.

      • The line between tax avoidance and evasion is exceedingly thin for the aggressive tax strategies these companies employ. I was being generous by using the term avoidance.
        • If there is room for shysters to argue about it, it's avoidance until declared otherwise by a court.

          'Grey Area' is one of the shyster class's most powerful spells.

      • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @04:10AM (#51492917) Journal

        Why would anybody pay more then they were legally required?

        Because most people have some degree of moral backbone and understand that the letter of the law is not the same as morals.

        Most people don't take advantage of tax loopholes. Most people just have tax deducted from salary in the completely normal way and pay no more thought to it. Some people fill in a tax return and take advantage of a few rebates here and there if applicable[*]. Now, some people screw around with offshore shell corporations to reduce their taxes. That's an option open to many people but most simply don't bother.

        So yeah, most people probably pay more tat than they're legally required because the combination of hassle and the skeezy feeling that you're being a bad person when you find some cheat to lower your taxes just is not worth it.

        [*] Please don't try to insult my intelligence by claiming that rebates (which are intended by the government and there to promote certain kinds of behaviour) are equivalent to loopholes which are by definition unintended.

        • What kind of crazy definition of 'loophole' are you using?

          Loophole is a pejorative for a deduction/credit you don't like. That is all.

          You are morally required to 'starve the beast'. Even if you lose money on taking the deduction, cost of preparation etc, morally you should still take it.

          • Loophole is a pejorative for a deduction/credit you don't like. That is all.

            Jesus do you even know what loophole means? The govrnment does not provide deductions then complain when people use them. A loophole is an unintended consequence of tax law, like the double Irish.

            Your statements is literally trying to change the meaning of commonly used phrases.

            You are morally required to 'starve the beast'.

            No you aren't.

            Even if you lose money on taking the deduction, cost of preparation etc, morally you should st

            • Bullshit. Those 'loopholes' were all passed deliberately.

              In some cases smart people use the loopholes for purposes other then the social engineering they were originally intended for (unintended consequences). But the 'loophole' is a deduction/credit that was DELIBERATELY PUT INTO LAW.

              You are using your own private definition of 'loophole'. All deductions are 'loopholes' to someone who doesn't like them.

              • Bullshit. Those 'loopholes' were all passed deliberately.

                OK, I understand the problem now: you're a complete idiot. Glad we cleared that up.

                • So you think these loopholes magiced their way into the code?

                  You think there is no logic to the way that overseas revenue and costs are allocated?

                  Study the subject, and propose a better system or shut the fuck up. These laws have been hashed out over decades by people much smarter than you and mostly work.

                  You'r just pissed that government power is checked by the ability of people and business to vote with their feet. Tough shit. That is a _good_ check on government revenue grabs.

          • The reason you live in a nice safe developed nation is because you have a powerful government that can defend that nation and provide services that mean you're unlikely to starve to death or to die of a preventable disease amongst many other services that you take for granted. Is our system perfect? Nowhere near. Would it be better if we had to get those services from the private sector? No because large numbers of us would be excluded from getting those services due to cost.

            • We keep the useful 10% of government and fire the dead weight. You are on crack if you believe what you just wrote.

  • 185 million USD is small given Google benefits. Perhaps they spent more in attorney and lobbyist fees to get that result!
  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @12:02AM (#51492349)
    sooner or later they win, because they have unlimited money and can just wear everybody else down. Here in the states the corps are salivating over Obama exiting the White House so they can bring back all those profits tax free without contributing a cent to the civilization that made it all possible. They win, and we all lose (schools, health care, food banks, etc).
  • I want to pay tax not on my income but my profits because at the end of the month, I don't have any.

  • About 2 quid per head. Total game changer, that.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm a UK citizen who runs a small business and I've always paid my taxes. Not any more.

    This year it looks like my business has wound down significantly. Revenues are about 2/3 of what they were last year. Next year will be more of the same. Of course this isn't really the case it's just that I'm now not declaring the majority of cash jobs. I'm also encouraging people to always pay cash where possible.

    If big corporations aren't required to pay tax then neither am I. I've tried petitioning my MPs to do

  • "We find ourselves in the position where we are paying the tax that the tax authorities told us to pay."

    Really? I'm in the exact same position, how cute.

  • It has been noticed that since this sweetheart deal, typing "Conservatives are" into google doesn't throw up any suggested searches [] (contrast with those suggested for "Labour are" and "Libdems are"). Correlation is not causation of course, could just be a happy coincidence.

Yes, we will be going to OSI, Mars, and Pluto, but not necessarily in that order. -- Jeffrey Honig