Saturday 1 October 2016

Google faces $400m Indonesia tax probe

Gayatri Suroyo and Eveline Danubrata

Published 20/09/2016 | 02:30

A Google sign in a phone shop in the city of Jakarta in Indonesia
A Google sign in a phone shop in the city of Jakarta in Indonesia

Indonesia plans to pursue Alphabet's Google for five years of back taxes, and the search giant could face a bill of more than $400m (€358m) for 2015 alone if it is found to have avoided payments, a senior tax official said.

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Muhammad Hanif, head of the tax office's special cases branch, told Reuters its investigators went to Google's local office in Indonesia yesterday.

The tax office alleges PT Google Indonesia paid less than 0.1pc of the total income and value-added taxes it owed last year.

Asked to respond to Mr Hanif's comments, Google Indonesia reiterated a statement made last week in which it said it continues to co-operate with local authorities and has paid all applicable taxes.

If found guilty, Google could have to pay fines of up to four times the amount it owed, bringing the maximum tax bill to 5.5 trillion rupiah ($418m) for 2015, Mr Hanif said. He declined to provide an estimate for the five-year period. Most of the revenue generated in the country is booked at Google's Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore.

Google Asia Pacific declined to be audited in June, prompting the tax office to escalate the case into a criminal one, Mr Hanif said.

"Google's argument is that they just did tax planning," he said. "Tax planning is legal, but aggressive tax planning - to the extent that the country where the revenue is made does not get anything - is not legal."

The tax office will summon directors from Google Indonesia who also hold positions at Google Asia Pacific, Mr Hanif said, adding that it is working with the Indonesian police.

Globally, it is rare for a state investigation of corporate tax structures to be escalated into a criminal case.

It normally takes at least three years for an Indonesian court to make a decision on a tax criminal case, said a local expert. (Reuters)

Irish Independent

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