Former Google boss defends technology giant’s tax record

Executive Chairman of Google Eric Schmidt at Google's 'Big Tent' event.
Executive Chairman of Google Eric Schmidt at Google's 'Big Tent' event.

A former Google boss has defended the company’s record on tax and said the technology giant complies with “complicated” rules.

Eric Schmidt was the chairman of Google from 2001 to 2011 before taking on the role of executive chairman until 2015.

He now sits on the board of the search engine’s parent company, Alphabet.

When asked by BBC Newsnight whether Google was doing the right thing by using a Dutch company to reduce its tax bill, Mr Schmidt, 64, said: “The global tax system is incredibly complicated.

“We are required to follow tax rules – when those tax rules change, of course, we will adopt them.

“But there is a presumption we are doing something wrong here. We were following the global tax regime.”

Documents filed in the Netherlands showed Google moved 19.9 billion euros (£17.9 billion) to a shell company in Bermuda, a tax haven.

Google has always maintained it abides by tax rules in all of the countries in which it operates.

Mr Schmidt said: “We feel very comfortable with what we have done and I will defend the company, and how it works, for a very long time.”

He also defended the firm’s work in China, calling the world “a very interconnected place”.

Last year, the New York Times reported Google was working on a search engine for use in the country, compliant with Beijing’s strict censorship rules.

The company has since said it is no longer working on the project, after several high-profile resignations.

When asked why employees only heard about the project in the media, Mr Schmidt said he had no direct involvement in the work but “I can tell you that certainly the people who were building all these products knew about it”.


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