Google defends UK tax payments, says good for country

The Google signage is seen at the company's headquarters in New York January 8, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

LONDON (Reuters) - Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt has defended his company’s low tax payments in Britain, saying the company follows the letter of the law and makes a positive contribution to the British economy.

A British parliamentary committee last year accused Google, Inc and Starbucks Corp of “immorally” minimizing their tax bills. Schmidt rejected the criticism in a radio interview with Britain’s BBC.

“I think the most important thing to say about our taxes is that we fully comply with the law and we’ll obviously, should the law change, we’ll comply with that as well,” he said.

Google has UK sales worth billions of dollars each year. But from 2006 to 2011, the last six years for which accounts are available, it reported a net tax credit because tax payments were exceeded by tax credits. These tax assets can be used to offset future profits.

Nonetheless, Schmidt said Google helped drive growth in the British economy. “We empower literally billions of pounds of start-ups through our advertising network and so forth,” he told the BBC.

“And we’re a key part of the electronic commerce expansion of Britain, which is driving a lot of economic growth for the country.”

In a response to public anger over the issue, the British government is leading an international push to reduce profit-shifting by international companies.

Reporting by Tom Bergin; Editing by Mark Heinrich