Business Irish

Monday 15 July 2019

Google faces a 'shareholder revolt' over tax

Motion calls for firm to pay 'fair share'

Google's Dublin HQ
Google's Dublin HQ

Roisin Burke

A group of Google shareholders will bring a motion calling for change to the multinational's controversial tax policy at its AGM next month.

It is seeking a commitment from Google to pay what it terms a "fair share of taxes".

It demands that Google avoid "transactions that would not be fully justifiable should they become public" in a proposal included in Google's pre-AGM Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The proposal is being put forward for vote by ethical investor Domini Social Equity fund and joined by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, NEI Investments LP, Robert Burnett, and Investor Voice, SPC as co-filers.

It has little chance of being passed but will once again attract attention to Google's low tax outlay against multibillion revenues.

"Google's tax practices have come under scrutiny in the United Kingdom and France, leading to regulatory pressures and reputational damage," the proposal says, and it cites a Bloomberg article headed "Google cuts billions off its tax bill each year by sending profits through Ireland to a mailbox in Bermuda."

"Although most Google engineers are US-based, where much of product development takes place, Google's intellectual property is held in Bermuda, which does not levy corporate taxes," they claim.

"Tax haven" jurisdictions are characterised by low tax rates, financial secrecy and light regulation. Tax havens facilitate financial opacity and illegal activities including tax evasion and money laundering, it further continues.

Google's opposing statement says: "There has been ongoing discussion at national and international fora regarding tax reform, an idea for which we have already offered our public support."

It added that it "continually" considers the impact of its decisions and actions on its tax positions and reputation and recommends a vote against the stockholder proposal.

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