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Google’s Europe Boss Fails To Answer MPs Over Salary

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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Google tax avoidance controversy continues after UK boss tells MPs he does not to know his salary

Google’s European head Matt Brittin failed to answer direct questions about his salary when he appeared before the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee.

Brittin is currently President of EMEA Business & Operations for Google, and he was attending the committee in the aftermath of Google’s tax settlement with British tax authorities.

Salary Grilling

Last month Google agreed to pay £130m in back taxes for the period since 2005.

That tax agreement followed a six year inquiry by HMRC, which has been examining low level of taxes paid by foreign-based multinational companies that operate in the UK.

Google for example paid just £20.4m in taxes in the UK in 2013, despite its UK sales having a value of £3.8bn that year.

© Elenathewise - Fotolia.comAnd Brittin appeared before the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee on Thursday to discuss this settlement.

It is fair to say that Brittin was in hostile territory, as the committee has previously accused Google of “aggressive tax avoidance,” and has alleged it was not paying “its fair share of tax” in the UK.

Brittin was questioned by a visibility angry Labour MP Meg Hillier, who is also the committee chair. She asked Brittin if he was aware about the “anger and frustration out there” that Google only agreed to pay £130m in back taxes.

Brittin said he understood the anger, and welcomed the chance to come and discuss the settlement with the MPs.

Hillier then asked Brittin what he was paid as a salary.

Brittin seemed surprised at the question and told MPs that he could not disclose how much earned because he did not have the figure.

“I’ll happily disclose that if it’s a relative matter for the committee,” said Brittin.

But Hillier demanded to know his salary and asked for a ball park figure, but Brittin again failed to answer the question, saying he did not have the figure.

“You don’t know what you get paid, Mr Brittin?” Hillier said to laughter in the room.

Tax Controversy

Google had faced accusations that it only effectively paid just three percent tax, but Brittin insisted that Google now paid tax at 20 percent like any other company operating in the UK.

Google, like many other American firms had established its European headquarters in Ireland. This meant that Google was only liable for a small amount of UK corporation tax.

But the chancellor George Osborne has been determined to clamp down on this, and last year he introduced his ‘diverted profits tax’ law. It imposes a punitive 25 percent tax on groups deemed to be artificially routing profits overseas.

Google previously only had a modest presence (160 people) in the UK, compared to Ireland where it employs 5,000 people in Dublin.

But this is changing according to Brittin, and Google is currently building a new £1bn headquarters in King’s Cross, north London, and it now has more than 4,000 staff working for its UK operation.

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