France Seeks Back Taxes of €1.6 Billion from Google

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France doesn’t tend to play around when it comes to collecting taxes and it seems that US Internet giant Google owes the French Republic a lot more money than many would have guessed

After the cow-towing and pussy-footing of the Irish government around this issue, it’s refreshing to see a country actually stand up to oversized American corporations and accuse them of effectively stealing truckloads of taxpayers’ money – €1.6 billion to be precise in this case.

The French fiscal authorities dropped the bill on Google France yesterday. It’s about ten times greater than the deal that the British revenue authorities agreed on for unpaid back-taxes from the same organisation just a month ago.

“With regard to France, there is a fiscal shortfall of €1.6 billion imposed on this company,” said a French Finance Ministry source close to the file, revealing for the first time the figure sought by France from the American corporation. It is considerably larger than the €500 million hinted at by the Ministry up to now.

Authorities at the Ministère de l’Economie et des Finances in Bercy remained tight-lipped about the case when quizzed by AFP on the matter yesterday, while Google didn’t feel like commenting on the matter either.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean that Google will end up paying €1.6 billion,” said to the same source to the AFP. “There will be a certain amount of appeal, negotiation back and forth, particularly on the point of penalties being sought.”

The enormous figure was made public at the same time as Google chief Sundar Pichai was in Paris, where he had a meeting yesterday evening with Minister of the Economy Emmanuel Macron (pictured above). According to the Minister’s entourage, the meeting was a routine one, where the thorny subject of Google’s oversized tax bill was not necessarily going to be discussed.

Mr Pichai was asked about Google’s attitude to tax obligations during a press conference at Sciences-Po. He replied that “we are a global group and we conform to fiscal law everywhere and we do this in every country.” The Indian-born American CEO also called for “simplification of tax laws globally.”

At the beginning of February, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin insisted that, unlike the case of their British counterparts, they would not be negotiating any arrears found to be owing by Google.

The French story is just one chapter for Google in a line of national taxation authorities seeking rectification for alleged unpaid taxes but it’s by far the largest sum. After the British settlement of €170 million, Italian tax men are looking for €200 million.

Google employs 700 people in France and posted profits of €12.2 million there in 2014.

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