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Google’s UK head refutes claims of “immoral tax practices”

Matt Brittin, Google's vice-president in northern and central Europe, has refuted allegations of tax avoidance levied at his company by London Mayor Boris Johnson. During a broadcast of Channel 4 News, Brittin argued that his company followed the rules set by politicians and that such accusations only serve to encourage a bias against big business.

The dispute centres on a recent comment made by the Mayor that the Internet behemoth pays “zero tax”; a reference to how Google benefits from low tax rates that sees it pay just £6 million on UK profits estimated at £2.5 billion.

"Boris should get his facts right. We pay tax and he should look at the broader contribution we make, including the investment in start-ups in London,” Brittin said.

"It's frustrating that the mayor of London, who is a great champion of the financial services industry, isn't championing the technology sector, which has the chance to provide the next wave of growth for London and the UK."

The Google VP went on to highlight how his company’s foreign status makes it prone to criticism from certain quarters adding, "I would love it if Google had been invented in Cambridge... If Google had been created there and was a British business, we'd be having a very different conversation now."

"We would be paying tax based on where our product was created - in that case, we'd be paying the majority of our tax here and operating in the US in a very different way," he continued.

He also referenced a recent encounter with the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the MPs of which he described as “belligerent”. Brittin felt that debate cast businesses in bad light by framing corporate practices as wholly negative.

“There's a risk that the attitude can be 'businesses are trying to do negative things and get away with them' - it's the wrong bias to think everyone is out to cheat," explained Brittin.