Google CEO Sundar Pichai has refuted accusations the tech giant failed to pay enough taxes in Europe, saying it was up to politicians to improve the tax system. Pichai also warned of the possible fallout from Brexit.
In an interview with Germany's "Welt am Sonntag" newspaper, Pichai said that the US company had invested "very heavily" in Europe, where it employs around 14,000 people.
"As a global company, we find ourselves between the conflicting priorities of international tax law," he said, just a few weeks after two of Google's European offices were raided by tax inspectors.
"Based on the structure of existing tax law, most companies pay the bulk of their taxes in their home countries," Pichai insisted, adding that individual governments would have to take action if they wanted more revenue to stay at home.
"Only the further development of the global tax system by politicians can lead to better results," the Google chief told the paper. If new international tax laws were passed, the search giant would adhere to them, Pichai added.
Two tax raids
Google's offices in Madrid were searched in a tax probe in late June, just over a month after police raided the Internet behemoth in Paris in a similar investigation. French officials allege the tech company owes them 1.6 billion euros ($1.77 billion) in unpaid taxes and fines.
Tax inspectors are attempting to prove that sales booked by Google in both countries are much higher than those reported to tax authorities.
The swoops are among a series of regulatory worries for Google, which is also confronting a third anti-trust charge by the European Commission over its online search advertising and shopping business. The company already faces action over its Android smartphone operating system.
In January, Google settled on a 155 million euro tax agreement with British authorities, a deal heavily criticized as insufficient compared to the revenue it generates in the country.
Tech giants like Google, Amazon and Apple have faced criticism over their tax liabilities as many of the firms take advantage of tax breaks by using countries such as Ireland, Belgium and Luxembourg for their European headquarters.
Pichai also warned that Britain's decision to leave the European Union may bring difficulties for internet companies as digital regulation diverges.
"As companies we see great value in Europe as a unified digital market," he said, warning that it was a challenge to keep up with varying laws and regulations in every country. "The complexity makes a bigger commitment difficult, which can be seen in investments," he added.
mm/jlw (AFP, dpa)