The ongoing tax crusade against Google

The powers-that-be in the UK are continuing their crusade against Google, but this is the thin edge of a very broad wedge, as others are beginning to realise.

What does American singer-songwriter Lauryn Hill have in common with Google? They are both on the receiving end of government repression, although to date only Miss Hill has felt the full force of that repression. Last month she was given a three month gaol sentence followed by three months under house arrest for tax evasion.

At the time she said “I am a child of former slaves who had a system imposed on them,” adding “I had an economic system imposed on me.”

This sort of rhetoric doesn’t play well with the toiling and exploited masses, or with poor people – especially poor whites – who are domiciled in tent cities across America, but in a sense we are all slaves to the tax system. Sending Lauryn Hill to gaol is a pointless exercise; it would have been better to order her to play a certain number of concerts or whatever and to deduct any outstanding tax from that, or perhaps order her to play a number of outright benefit concerts, but that would be asking too much from her and our oppressor.

In the UK, Google has come under assault from Margaret Hodge yet again for not paying its fair share of tax.

This sort of rhetoric plays well with oppressed taxpayers, especially as Google is such an enormous company, but let us say this again. Google gives people in the UK:

A free e-mail account

A free YouTube account

A free search engine

A free blog

A free map – local/national/international

Free translation to and from English

Free books...und so weiter.

Margaret Hodge, British MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, says transparency is essential in the fight against tax avoidance.

This is what Google gives the British public for free, and on top of that the company is supposed to pay the British Government for the privilege.

Let us imagine though that instead of paying its fair share of tax as dictated by St. Margaret of Barking, Google decided to pull out of the UK altogether; to close all UK Google accounts, and to remove its search engine and everything else from UK users. Who would be the loser? As well as us little people, the British Government would lose out, because it too uses Google.

Let us imagine though that Google were to pay its fair share of tax in the UK according to some as yet unspecified criteria, a set of rules laid down by our politicians. Where would this money go? The answer is into the black hole of the Treasury, and then back to the banks.

It is though not simply Google, other big companies and Lauryn Hill but a lot of people lower down the food chain who are to be targeted, and indeed are being targeted. Two years ago, it was announced than an extra 2,250 tax inspectors were to be hired to tackle the problem of people who don’t pay their fair share of tax. Yes, TWO THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY. There were said to be 350,000 people on their hit list; that is greater than the population of Cardiff.

Today, the BBC reports that David Cameron has said he will “sweep away” the secrecy that is said to go hand in hand with tax avoidance. Again, this sounds good, but what does it entail? Obviously more indeed Draconian powers of state surveillance and intrusion, not simply into the tax affairs of Google and the Lauryn Hills of these islands, but all of us, the reader should have no doubt about that; these new inspectors have already begun targeting cricket clubs.

Margaret Hodge may not see the bigger picture, but there is no need for you to likewise be wilfully blind. At the end of the day, the cost of extracting a few million pounds from Google and similar large corporations will be an army of tax inspectors who will be paid generously no doubt with index-linked pensions, snoops crawling all over your property and prying into your bank accounts - yes, yours, you - and let us not forget, the money pillaged from big company and small trader alike will go to feed the banking system, and will by the same token reduce the capital companies large and small can reinvest, something that will in turn reduce the wealth of the community, including real jobs.

This is the bottom line, and you don’t have to be a Google shareholder to realise this will be bad for us all if Margaret Hodge gets her way.

[The above op-ed was first published June 15, 2013.]

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