Last week, Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt said he was ‘very proud’ that Google was able to avoid paying taxes in overseas markets like the UK. This is at a time when multi-national companies like Google are under fire in the UK for not paying their fare share of taxes, and when public services are being cut because there’s not enough money left from government funds – funds which are raised through taxes. Ergo, if these companies did pay fair taxes, we wouldn’t be so screwed.
Starbucks recently volunteered to pay more tax in the UK after a consumer backlash saw sales at main rival Costa increase by 7%. Similarly, a number of people are avoiding purchasing from Amazon this Christmas because it only paid £1.8 million in corporation tax, despite sales of £3.35 billion.
Frankly, Schmidt’s comments are insulting. The only people who will be pleased by his statement will be Google shareholders and investors; to everyone else, especially in the UK, it’s demeaning. And, unsurprisingly, people are looking to boycott Google as well.
This means things like:
- Using Mozilla Firefox instead of Google Chrome
- Switching to Yahoo! Mail or Outlook.com instead of Gmail
- Uploading videos to Vimeo and photos to Flickr, instead of YouTube and Picasa Web Albums
- Searching using Bing
- Sharing on Facebook or Twitter instead of Google+
- Using an ad-blocker to hide Google’s advertising
- Storing files in Dropbox or SkyDrive, rather than Google Drive
- Using maps from Apple or Microsoft
Personally, I’m not going down the route of a boycott, even though I think Schmidt’s attitude is unacceptable. And, in any case, Apple are also guilty of tax avoidance in the UK, as is Facebook, and I’m sure Microsoft probably is as well. Unfortunately Google products are so ingrained in how I use the internet that I’d find it difficult to not use them.
And I think the best way of tackling the problem is to close the loopholes that these companies exploit. Avoiding tax increases profits; for some companies, this would be a no-brainer and has, until recently, not really attracted attention. Of course, times have changed and now these companies have the negative image that tax avoidance brings to counter; Starbucks have found that this was to their detriment and I hope that Google will follow.
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