LONDON (AP) — U.K. lawmakers subjected search giant Google to blistering criticism Thursday, accusing the U.S. Internet company of playing games with Britain's tax rules to avoid paying what it owed.
In his second appearance before Parliament in roughly six months, Google Vice President Matt Brittin tried to defend his company's complex corporate structure to a committee of skeptical U.K. politicians, many of whom seemed unconvinced by his assertion that Google was being transparent about how it paid its bills.
After two hours of sharp questioning, committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge accused Brittin of "devious, calculated and, in my view, unethical behavior in deliberately manipulating the reality of your business in order to avoid paying your fair share of tax to the common good."
"You are a company that says you do no evil and I think that you do do evil in that you use smoke and mirrors to avoid paying tax."
Brittin countered that his company's employees "fully comply with the law."
Google is one of several major multinationals — including Amazon, Facebook and Starbucks — whose convoluted corporate structures and disproportionately low tax bills have drawn increased attention in Britain and elsewhere.
Google, one of the world's most visible companies, has attracted particularly close scrutiny. The company has paid less than 0.1 percent of its billions in U.K. revenue back to the government in tax. In the first quarter of this year it made $1.3 billion in revenue from the UK, according to a Google release. The company justifies low taxes by saying that the overwhelming majority of sales actually occur at the company's European head office in Dublin.