Google comes out fighting after being accused of legal – but immoral – tax avoidance, as UK boss Matt Brittin tells Channel 4 News politicians like Boris Johnson need to get their facts right.
Asked about recent comments from Boris Johnson that Google was paying “zero” tax, Matt Brittin said: “Boris should get his facts right. We pay tax and he should look at the broader contribution we make, including the investment in start-ups in London.
“It’s frustrating that the mayor of London, who is a great champion of the financial services industry, isn’t championing the technology sector, which has the chance to provide the next wave of growth for London and the UK.”
Speaking to Krishnan Guru-Murthy about the set-up which allows Google to pay £6m in the UK in corporation tax, on the profit from UK sales of £2.5bn, Brittin said: “Google plays by the rules set by politicians. The only people who really have choices are politicians who set the tax rates.”
If Google had been created in Cambridge and was a British business, we’d be having a very different conversation now. Matt Brittin
Referencing Google’s status as a US company, Google’s vice-president in northern and central Europe added: “I would love it if Google had been invented in Cambridge… If Google had been created there and was a British business, we’d be having a very different conversation now.
“We would be paying tax based on where our product was created – in that case, we’d be paying the majority of our tax here and operating in the US in a very different way.”
And asked whether descriptions such as “legal but immoral” were fair, Brittin told the programme: “I find it frustrating when we’re criticised because I’m not immoral and neither is Google… if Google were immoral, I would not be working here… I’m proud of the way we operate.”
He said he did not mind “belligerent” questioning from MPs, but cautioned: “I do think there’s a risk that the attitude can be ‘businesses are trying to do negative things and get away with them’ – it’s the wrong bias to think everyone is out to cheat”.