Meg Hillier, head of the committee, led the questioning, asking, “What do you get paid, Mr. Brittin?” She prefaced it by wondering if he really understood the anger over the agreed payment of £130 million ($187 million) in back taxes, which many say is too low. Brittin doesn’t answer, saying that he’ll disclose the figure privately “if it was relevant,” but was shot down by Hillier, who responded, “I’m asking you, so it’s a relevant matter.”
Brittin’s eventual answer has since caused him considerable problems, because he said he, “didn’t have the figure.” Backed by peals of laughter, an incredulous Hillier replied, “You don’t know what you get paid?” Brittin refused to provide the figure four times, which led to claims this only emphasized the massive difference between company executives and the normal tax-payer. Whether Brittin was simply unwilling to state his salary on camera, or genuinely didn’t know how much he is paid, it was an unfortunate response. “Our constituents are very angry,” continued Hillier, “they live in a different world to the world you live in.”
None of the hearing went well for Google. Brittin couldn’t tell the committee the sum on which it paid tax, and another Google executive, Ton Hutchinson, was unable to answer the question about why Google hadn’t paid U.K. tax in nearly ten years. The U.K. government didn’t fine Google for this infraction, and the final agreement was referred to as a “sweetheart deal” by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.
It’s not Brittin’s first go around with the Public Accounts Commitee’s questions regarding Google’s tax practices. However, back in 2012, he made it quite clear that Google was playing by the rules set out by politicians. “The only people who really have choices are politicians who set the tax rates,” he said.
Google’s parent company Alphabet recently became the most valuable in the world, with a valuation of $553 billion, pushing past Apple’s paltry $538 billion.
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