'I wish we were more like France. HMRC are not aggressive enough and never challenged Google'

Google HQ in Paris

A sign of the times at Google's Paris HQ on Wednesday morning

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Britain should be more like France, and challenge the tax affairs of the world's biggest multinational companies, says a former government minister and chair of the Public Accounts Select Committee. 

Following news that tax authorities had on Wednesday morning raided the Paris headquarters of Google, amid accusations of more than £1 billion in unpaid taxes, Labour MP Margaret Hodge told Julia Hartley-Brewer that the UK tax authorities "are simply not aggressive enough in protecting the public interest".

Following the Paris raid, Google announced: "We comply with French law and are co-operating fully with the authorities to answer their questions."

Hodge added: "[If you] take a common sense view and look at the money that multinational companies like Google are earning in the UK, from UK customers, and then look at the tax they’re paying, it does not make sense." 

A controversial deal was announced in January that HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) had agreed that the US online giant would pay back-taxes of £130 million, covering the 10-year period from 2005. 

But Hodge, who held several cabinet positions under the last Labour government, including minister for industry and the regions, believes that figure is "absurd".

"The boss of Google earned more in five years than Google paid in corporation tax for 10 years," she said. "That begins to show how absurd that figure is. 

"HMRC never walked the floor and challenged whether Google were actually doing in practice what they said they were doing.

"I wish we were acting more like France. HMRC and the government are in awe of the big multinationals like Google and don't dare take them on.

"“The problem we’ve got is that everything is so secret. All the issues around company taxation are kept confidential. I think that should be open to public account.

"Why shouldn’t we know how HMRC and Google had that negotiation which ended up with £130m over 10 years?"