The Chancellor said he understood “frustration and anger” over multinationalfirms avoiding big bills but blamed international laws. He said he always sought “the best deal for Britain”.
The £130 million, ten-year deal with HM Revenue & Customs on back taxes was hailed as a “victory” by Mr Osborne when it was announced at the weekend but immediately came under fire.
One of Google’s biggest UK shareholders – James Anderson – called on the company to pay “much more” in British taxes and said it was in its own interest to pay a “decent” rate.
Yesterday the EU’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager indicated she is ready to look into complaints that the settlement breached EU rules, after the SNP MP Stewart Hosie confirmed he had written to her calling for an investigation.
Asked if he stood by his initial assessment of the deal, Mr Osborne said: “My only interest is to get the best deal for Britain – to bring the jobs here, the businesses here and to make sure that taxes are paid here.
“When I became Chancellor Google paid no tax. Now Google is paying tax and I have introduced a new diverted profits tax to make sure they pay tax in the future.
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Is there more to do? Clearly there is. We’ve got to make sure the international rules catch up and we are leading that effort.” Ms Vestager said it was “too early” to say if an inquiry would be launched into whether the deal amounted to “illegal state aid”, but Labour MP Margaret Hodge – former chairwoman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) – said she should “take a look”.
Executives from Google and HMRC are to be quizzed on the deal by the PAC on 11 February in the latest of a series of inquiries by the spending watchdog into multinationals’ tax affairs. The internet search giant defended the deal, insisting it had complied with the law and was paying “the full amount of tax that HM Revenue & Customs agrees we should pay”.
But one of the tech giant’s biggest UK shareholders said it should pay “much more”.
Mr Anderson – whose Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust owns £120m of Google’s parent company, Alphabet – said: “It is in the long-term interests of Google and others of that ilk to pay decent rates of tax … They are beneficiaries of state spending at many levels and in return they would get respect.”