GMB’s Adil Ray slaps down Google boss in fiery tax row: ‘You will do things to avoid it’

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Vice President and MD of Google UK & Ireland Ronan Harris joined Charlotte Hawkins and Adil Ray on Good Morning Britain today to discusses how they are supporting local businesses throughout lockdown. However, the presenters were keen to find out what Ronan thought about accusations Google isn’t paying enough corporation tax and wanted to know if Ronan felt it was “fair”.

“According to the filing with Companies House, Google UK Limited posted revenue of £1.6billion for the year to the 30 June 2019, that was £193million on the previous year but you paid in corporation tax £43million less than the year before,” Charlotte stated.

“That’s the equivalent of 2.73 percent of your revenue in corporation tax. That’s not a fair amount is it to support the country?”

Ronan replied: “So Charlotte, like any business, our revenues and our profits go up and down so that’s accounting for some of the variation in those figures but the broader debate around tax, I want to be very clear, we pay all of the tax we are required to pay in the United Kingdom but there is a global conversation around the taxation of digital companies.

“When you look at Google’s total global tax, we pay around the same amount as other companies of our size across all industries but I think the bone of contention is a vast majority of that tax is paid in California where our headquarters is.

“The conversation between international governments at the moment is ‘Is there a fair apportionment of that tax so more of it is paid, not in California, but in the countries where we are doing lots of business.

“That is a process which is happening with the OECD, we’re huge supporters of that process but it’s for international governments to sit down and agree what they would be.”

Adil chipped in to ask: “So to get this clear then, the official line then as the Vice President of Google UK, you are happy to pay and you want to pay more tax because that is the right thing to do but it’s up to governments to tell you how much?”

“Yeah we will always pay the tax we are required to pay in the UK and that is a matter for the UK government to set but the job that as to be done amongst international governments is to agree how the apportionment of our global tax is divided,” Ronan responded.

Charlotte later added: “I’m sure the small business that you’re helping who have to pay 20 percent corporation tax will be looking at you thinking you should be doing the same. They’ll be thinking it’s unfair that situation is in place at the moment.”

“And again, I don’t set the rules for what taxes are required and that’s a job for the Treasury and the government to undertake,” Ronan explained. “But we will always pay what we are required. We have always done that and we always will do that.

“The UK is a really hugely important market to us, it’s a really advance digital economy, very often we see some of the new trends in digital behaviour happen first in the UK.

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“Very often the new ideas we see on how to service businesses and consumers around the world are thought of here first. So we want to continue to be a huge supporter of the UK market and UK businesses the length and breadth of the country.”

Adil hit back: “Look you say you will do what the government requires but you will also do things to try and avoid it.

“You’re in Dublin, that’s where your head offices are, where you can pay slightly lower taxes, if you pay any taxes at all.

“But I just wanted to be absolutely clear, if a government decided tomorrow that Google should be paying 20 percent tax, you will abide by that.”

“We will always pay the tax the government requires, absolutely,” Ronan confirmed.

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Talking about how Google UK is helping small businesses, Ronan also explained: “What we want to do is help connect those businesses to their consumers in their local community and make that business transaction a lot easier.

“So we’re putting this new site up and running in the next few weeks so business owners can very easily update their information that consumers can very easily find.

“It’s a free service and we’re also encouraging consumers to go out and write reviews about those businesses they are engaging with.

“We’ve also seen lots and lots of love letters starting to be posted online by consumers about the businesses that have really helped them out during lockdown and we want to really support that conversation.

“So, it is an opportunity for the nation to talk about that local store that’s really helped them out during this lockdown period.”

Good Morning Britain airs weekdays on ITV at 6am.

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