Google's Schmidt calls for debate on tax

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Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt has defended his company’s tax affairs, saying he welcomes promises of international debate on tax

Schmidt wrote in the Observer newspaper yesterday that his company had “always aspired to do the right thing” but said that a debate about "meaningful tax reform" would be welcome.

The Google chairman, who has constantly denied any wrongdoing by his company, also said he welcomes promises by international leaders to crack down on tax loopholes. "Given the intensity of the debate, not just in the UK but also in America and elsewhere, international tax law could almost certainly benefit from reform," he wrote. His comments this weekend marked a definite softening from December last year when he was defiant over criticisms of Google's tax planning, saying the firm was "proudly capitalistic."

Schmidt has spoken out following the recall of the vice president of Google’s northern European operations Mark Brittin before MPs last week.

The hearing from the Public Accounts Committee was partly based on evidence from whistleblowers, one of who has spoken out publicly for the first time. Barney Jones, who worked for Google between 2002 and 2006, told the The Sunday Times, "When I was at Google, our job was to find advertisers, to close the deals [and] to get them to sign bits of paper saying they were committing to spending in the UK.

"If that is not closing the deal, I don't know what is."

Google, whose sales team is based in Dublin, was originally called in front of the PAC in November last year, where it told the Committee that no deals were closed in the UK. However, the firm was recalled following suggestions it had not been comprehensive in its evidence to the PAC first time round.

Jones said yesterday he was ready to hand over contracts, invoices and correspondence to HMRC showing that clients were sold advertising by staff based in London.

David Cameron will meet Schmidt at the quarterly meeting of the prime minister’s Business Advisory Group in Downing Street today.

 

Helen Roxburgh

 

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