When protesting one of the world’s most creative companies, you’ve gotta get pretty inventive yourself. And that appears to be precisely what Israeli pilot and politician Yoav Kisch has done with his giant blimp, which currently floats alongside Google’s Tel Aviv office. Emblazoned on the blimp are the words “Google Must Pay Taxes,” a message that speaks to an ongoing debate throughout much of the international community regarding how foreign companies should be taxed by the local governments of their satellite offices. Kisch is one of many activists working to close a loophole (this one specific to in Israel) that allows companies not to register as a business in Israel, which in turn permits them to avoid a value-added tax (VAT).
Kisch is currently in the process of drafting a bill that would address this issue, and as such, it’s not yet clear whether Israeli consumers would have to pay VAT on products that they buy from foreign companies that do not have offices in the country. But regardless, Kisch says, “the law should not differentiate between major companies and small businesses.”
In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, the politician asserted that, “International corporations, which earn massive sums from Israelis, must pay VAT like any other company in Israel. A free market does not mean anarchy. This is a matter of hundreds of millions of shekels that could be used for welfare, health, and education, money that is currently flowing out of Israel.”
A number of tech companies (including Google) have previously been accused of avoiding taxes in foreign offices (or really, basing the location of their multinational offices based on the respective tax codes). But Google insists that it has always paid taxes as per local government rules. In response to Kisch’s most recent proposal, a Google spokesperson said, “Governments make tax law, the tax authorities independently enforce the law, and Google complies with the law in every country in which we operate, including in Israel.”
And if they don’t, Google may wind up seeing a lot more blimps asking them to cough up money.