A Google boss has prompted fury from MPs after suggesting he does not know how much he gets paid.
Top brass from the internet giant today faced a parliamentary inquisition over its UK tax affairs after it recently agreed to a £130million settlement - significantly less than many think it should be paying when it has £5 billion of sales in the country.
Google says it abides by the “system” in place, but that the rules are over-complicated.
Make no mistake, MPs on the Public Accounts Committee, in effect Parliament’s financial watchdog, were angry throughout - and a exchange over the remuneration of Matt Brittin, Google president of Europe, Middle East and Africa, underlined the sour mood.
Committee chairman, Labour MP Meg Hillier, said there was huge public “anger” over the company’s tax arrangements, and wanted to know how much Mr Brittin took home.
Here's the exchange in painful detail.
Hillier: “What do you get paid Mr Brittin?”
Brittin: “If that’s relevant I’ll happily disclose that to the committee.”
Hillier: “I’m asking you what you get paid.”
Brittin: “I don’t have that figure but I’ll happily provide it.”
Hillier “You don’t know what you get paid Mr Brittin? Perhaps you could give us a ballpark about what you get paid. Forget the share options, what’s the basic salary?”
Brittin: “I don’t have the figure but I’ll provide it if it’s relevant to the committee.”
Hillier: “Out their tax payers, our constituents, are angry. They live in a different world, clearly, if you can’t tell us what you are paid.”
She later added: “Don’t you feel embarrassed that you don’t know how much you are going to get paid? You are living on another planet.”
Other MPs waded in, questioning complicated tax arrangements referred to as the “Dutch sandwich” and “Double Irish”.
Richard Bacon, a Conservative MP, wanted to know why it took a six-year HM Revenue and Customs investigation to get to the bottom of its UK tax arrangements - “longer than the Second World War”, he noted
He later added the furore was “staining your reputation”. “It must have an impact on what your employees feel about working for Google. You can’t like the fact that lots of people hate you because of this; they are angry," he said.
Tory MP Stewart Jackson suggested a Google press release announcing last month the £130 million settlement was a “dead cat strategy” - a reference to a PR device whereby a shocking revelation diverts attention. “You knew you were putting the heat on the Treasury?,” he added.