London - Google boss Eric Schmidt insisted on Wednesday his company was trying to do the “right thing” as it faces criticism in Britain over the amount of tax it pays, saying it was for countries not companies to decide tax policies.
Schmidt was commenting after Ed Miliband, the leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, told a meeting of Google staff that he was “disappointed” it had paid just £6-million in corporation tax on sales in Britain worth £3.2-billion in 2011.
Schmidt, who arrived at the Big Tent event outside London after Miliband's speech, was asked about the politician's comments.
He said: “I don't think companies should decide what tax policies should be. I think governments should.
“All of us are operating in a very, very long-standing tax regime which was set up for various reasons that don't necessarily make sense to me or anyone else. But they are the way the global tax regime works.”
Schmidt added: “We are trying to do the right thing. We are not trying to the wrong thing.”
Google claims it is doing nothing wrong because it routes all of its European advertising sales through its offices in Ireland, where businesses enjoy relatively low tax.
Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the British parliament's influential Public Accounts Committee scrutiny panel, last week described Google as “evil” as she grilled its vice-president Matt Brittin.
Miliband told the Google employees: “I can't be the only person who feels deeply disappointed that a great company like Google... should be reduced to arguing that when it employs thousands of people in Britain, makes billions of pounds in revenue in Britain, it is fair that it should pay just a fraction of one percent of that in tax.”
European Union leaders met in Brussels on Wednesday with leaders seeking to clamp down on tax evasion. - Sapa-AFP