By Tom Bergin
LONDON May 3 Some of Google's clients have
questioned its assertion that it does not sell to customers from
its London office, a key plank in its ability to operate almost
tax-free in Britain, a poll said on Friday.
Meanwhile, the company began amending advertisements for
London-based jobs on its website, which previously said that
candidates would have to achieve "sales quotas" and "drive
Google Inc says it sells all advertising in the UK,
France and Germany from its Dublin office.
The Drum, a magazine for marketing professionals, asked 80
ad buyers and digital agencies - companies that purchase
advertising products on behalf of clients - about their dealings
with Google's London office and their interaction with the
office in Dublin.
Of the 29 that replied to the survey, "Almost 80 percent of
respondents said they dealt with London when buying Google
advertising. Around 14 percent said they used Dublin, the
remainder said they did not know," an article posted on The
Drum's website said.
Google declined to comment on Friday on the details of the
Corporate tax avoidance has become a hot political issue in
Britain amid austerity measures to pay for the banking crisis.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he is working
to address the problem and plans to put it on the agenda for the
G8 meeting of the world's largest economies to be held in
Northern Ireland in June.
From 2006 to 2011, Google generated $18 billion in revenues
from Britain, according to statutory filings, and Google UK paid
just $16 million in taxes, its accounts show.
"When asked what they considered they were doing when
dealing with Google's London team, 76 percent said they
considered they were buying from them. 17 percent said they were
receiving general advice in order to buy through Dublin," the
Drum report added.
When asked what they considered to be the primary role of
Google's London advertising team, 80 percent said "sales", while
17 percent said "support", the report said.
CHANGING THE ADVERTS
Earlier this week British lawmakers said they planned to
call Google back to testify to a parliamentary committee after
Reuters revealed the company advertised for UK staff to
"negotiate" and "close" deals. A Google executive told the
committee in November that UK staff did not sell to clients.
Google said: "We accept that the wording of some job adverts
may have been confusing and we are working to make it clearer."
On Friday, Google had begun amending UK-based job
advertisements on its website, which referred to sales
A reference to "Acquire new strategic medium-sized clients"
was removed from an advertisement for an "acquisition manager
(UK/Ireland)". Prospective candidates are now told they need to
"Approach prospects with tailored presentations and industry
All adverts for jobs based in Paris and Germany, which last
month carried sales-related role descriptions, were amended by
Reuters also found that profiles of around 150 London-based
employees on the LinkedIn networking website said they were
involved in formulating sales strategy, managing sales teams,
closing deals or other sales work.
Google has denied misleading lawmakers and said it complied
with UK tax law. Google says it employs around 1,000
London-based "digital consultants" who educate customers about
the benefit of Google products.
It said these people did "encourage" clients to buy but said
all selling was done by "a couple of hundred" staff in Dublin.
The company declined to say specifically how the process of
selling was divided between Dublin and London or whether this
involved London staff negotiating contracts, which were then
rubber-stamped by Dublin.
Under international tax law, companies are allowed to engage
in promotional work in a country without creating a tax
residence, but lawyers and academics said negotiating on British
soil could mean Google's UK revenues became assessable for
income UK tax purposes.
Currently, Google UK receives fees from Google Ireland that
are intended to cover Google UK's costs, plus a small premium.