Google’s EMEA chief Matt Brittin came unstuck on Thursday (11th February) as he claimed he did not know that exact figure of his annual salary, when he was put on the spot by Meg Hillier of the Public Accounts Committee.
Hillier and her fellow Committee members are scrutinizing Google’s tax arrangements in the UK. The technology giant’s tax settlement with HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) involves a controversial £130m back tax settlement which many believe feels way short of what should really be paid.
Brittin took a grilling from the Public Accounts Committee as the angered British MPs pushed him for details of Google’s tax settlements with the UK authorities. Labour MP Hillier and Brittin exchanged heated words as the Google exec claimed he felt the anger from the British public over his company’s tax deal with HMRC.
“Do you really understand the anger, Mr Brittin?” Hillier questioned. “What do you get paid, Mr Brittin?” The Google boss eventually replied: “I don’t have the figure but I’ll provide that figure privately, if it’s relevant to the committee to understand my salary.”
After the initial exchanges Brittin and Tom Hutchinson, the firm’s tax manager, informed the panel that Google pays 20% on its UK profits and that their HMRC settlement was the result of an intense six-year independent audit.
Hutchinson stated that Google paid £2.2bn in corporation tax in 2015 globally, with most of that sum being paid in the United States. The company’s headquarters are in California. He explained, “It’s up to governments to decide where we should be paying that tax. I would love to see the system more simple so we wouldn’t have to come to hearings like this to explain it, but we need governments to work together to develop an overall worldwide system to take that 19% and split it in a simple way.”
The head of HMRC, Dame Lim Homer, also defended their deal with Google, claiming she was confident that, “we have got the full tax that’s due.”
Meanwhile, Labour’s John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor criticised Chancellor George Osborne over the matter. McDonnell said, “It’s time that Osborne got a grip of this situation as it’s becoming a daily occurrence that we read yet another multinational are not paying their fair share in tax meaning other taxpayers have to shoulder the burden. Osborne should use the EU negotiations not to cut the pay of people on low incomes but to get a deal at EU level on tax so that we are getting the tax status of these big multinationals under control.”