Ed Milliband, the Leader of the Opposition in Britain, attacked Google’s tax stance at the firm’s Big Tent event in London today. The M.P., who heads up the Labour Party, called the firm’s fiscal attitude “wrong” and singled out chairman Eric Schmidt, who was not there to hear the politician’s speech. He is appearing at the event later today.
“I can’t be the only person to think that a great company like Google that makes billions of pounds in revenue–can’t think it’s fair to pay a fraction of 1% of that in tax,” Milliband said. “I’m sorry Eric Schmidt isn’t here to hear me say this. When Eric Schmidt says it’s just capitalism, I disagree. When Google goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid paying its taxes, I say it’s wrong.”
When it came to taxation, companies had a responsibility, Milliband said, not in obeying the letter of the law, but in doing the right thing. He then read out an extract of the S-1 filing written by Google founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, ahead of the firm’s 2004 flotation, citing its founding principle of “Don’t be evil.”
There is currently a general sense of unease worldwide regarding tech firms’ policy of using tax havens and other territories like Ireland and the Netherlands to minimize their tax liabilities. (As well as tech firms, both Mitt Romney and the members of U2 have been beneficiaries of the schemes known as the “Double Irish” and “Dutch Sandwich.”)
Apple CEO Tim Cook appeared before a U.S. Senate committee yesterday to defend his firm’s tax strategy. He said that the firm paid $6 billion in taxes in 2012, around 30% of its profits, adding that the current U.S. tax system needed “dramatic simplification.”