2009年12月19日 星期六

Google pays no tax on £1.6bn in Britain/ Google loses French digital-book case

Business Digest: Google loses French digital-book case
Washington Post
Google was also ordered to pay $430000 in damages and interest to French publisher La Martiniere, which brought the case on behalf of a group of French ...


December 20, 2009

Google pays no tax on £1.6bn in Britain

Google, the internet giant whose informal corporate motto is “don’t be evil”, did not pay any tax on its £1.6 billion advertising revenues in Britain last year.

The firm, which has a substantial presence in London, diverted all its advertising earnings from customers in Britain to its Irish subsidiary.

The arrangement allowed Google legally to avoid paying more than £450m in corporation tax to HM Revenue & Customs in 2008, The Sunday Times has established.

The disclosure prompted politicians to criticise Google, widely lauded as a pioneer of the internet age, for “ducking its social responsibility” and for “tax avoiding”.

Accounts filed with Companies House in the past week show Google’s 2008 UK corporation tax bill amounted to just £141,519 — and that was tax on the interest generated by its cash pile in UK bank deposits.

Vince Cable, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, urged the search firm to “pay its fair share” of tax.

“Avoidance like this is hard to stomach at the best of times,” said Cable. “But when the country is in recession and everyone is feeling the pain, it really sticks in the throat — it means higher taxes for the rest of us.

“Google’s reputation will be severely damaged if it continues to behave in this way. It is ducking its social responsibility.”

Google says its structure complies fully with UK tax rules and that the company makes a “substantial” contribution to tax receipts wherever it operates.

About 13% of Google’s global revenues now come from the UK, and 770 staff are based at its London offices.

Accountants said that if the firm’s £1.6 billion UK earnings were paid directly into Google UK Limited, the London operation, it would have been liable for UK corporation tax of between 28% and 30%.

This could have raised about £450m for the public finances — enough tax to fund three NHS hospitals, buy at least eight Chinook helicopters or pay the annual salaries of about 15,000 policemen.

Any British individual or company who places an advertisement with the search engine pays a fee to Google’s European headquarters in Ireland, where corporation tax is levied at between 10% and 25%.

The Dublin operation’s latest accounts show that only €7.5m (£6.7m) of Irish tax was paid in 2008, even though the bulk of Google’s €6.7 billion (£5.9 billion) European earnings flowed into Ireland.

Austin Mitchell, the Labour MP for Great Grimsby, who campaigns against tax avoidance, said: “Google isn’t just sucking money out of local newspapers and other people who rely on advertising for a living — it’s also draining money out of the public finances.

“The search engine is a marvellous service, but the company is run by tax avoiders. If they are going to make so much money here they need to give more back to society.”

As well as paying little tax, Google UK Limited’s latest accounts disclose that it made modest charitable donations of just £5,662 during the year.

The document also reveals that Google’s highest-paid UK director earned nearly £1.1m — an 80% rise on the previous year.

The average British-based Google worker earned more than £90,000 last year, with the company paying National Insurance and other social security contributions of £10m.

Peter Barron, director of communications for Google in northern Europe, said: “Google makes a big investment in the UK, with over 800 employees, and we make a substantial contribution to local and national taxation. But the fact is that our European headquarters is in Dublin. We comply fully with the tax laws in all the countries in which we operate.”

Google has established strong ties with British politicians in recent years.

Last February, David Cameron, the Tory leader, appointed Eric Schmidt, the company’s chairman, to the Conservatives’ economic recovery committee.

A few months later, Cameron suggested that NHS patient records could in future be maintained by Google.

2009年12月7日 星期一

Google Adds Live Updates to Results

Google Adds Live Updates to Results

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Vic Gundotra, Google’s vice president of engineering, introduces several new features at a press event in Mountain View, Calif., on Monday.

Published: December 7, 2009

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Unveiling significant changes to its dominant search engine on Monday, Google said it would begin supplementing its search results with the updates posted each second to sites like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.

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Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Testing the new Google Goggles application.

As part of its much-anticipated entrance into the field known as real-time search, Google said that over the next few days its users would begin seeing brand-new tweets, blog items, news articles and social networking updates in results for certain topical searches.

Previously it took a few minutes for updates from social networks and blogs to filter into Google’s results.

“Clearly in today’s world, that’s not fast enough,” Amit Singhal, a Google fellow, said at a press conference at the Computer History Museum here. “Information is being posted at a pace we’ve never seen before, and in this environment, seconds matter.”

A search for “Copenhagen” on Google, for instance, where global climate talks are under way, produces the standard Web results, but with a box in the middle of the page where blog items, press releases, news articles and tweets scroll past.

The box updates every few seconds. A tweet from Tom Nguyen (@tomng) in the Bay Area read: “It’s snowing in North Beach. Explain that, Copenhagen.” Searching for “Pearl Harbor” on Monday, the 68th anniversary of the attack, turned up tweets from people who were memorializing those who died there, while the live results for “Tiger Woods” were less family-friendly.

Google struck formal partnerships with Twitter, Facebook and MySpace to quickly bring updates from those services into its search index. The companies did not disclose terms of those deals. Facebook has said publicly it is not earning money from the deal, and is giving Google updates only from the public profile pages on the service, which can already be seen by anyone on the Web.

Twitter makes a search tool available on its own site. But Biz Stone, a Twitter co-founder, said that Google would be better able to provide Tweets that were relevant to a particular user’s questions. “We’re not good at relevancy right now, and they are,” he said. “More people will get more value out of Twitter because we are doing this with Google.”

Twitter has also struck a separate deal with Microsoft to make live updates available in the Bing search engine.

The new Google features are likely to be most useful for breaking news events like earthquakes, when people want constantly updated information without having to scan multiple sources, said Danny Sullivan, editor of the blog Search Engine Land.

In other situations, Mr. Sullivan said, the live scrolling is likely to be little more than diversions, since the information was always present in Google search results but just took slightly longer to get there.

Google introduced several other products at its event on Monday. The most ambitious, called Google Goggles, allows people to send Google a cellphone photograph of, say, a landmark or a book, and have information about the contents of the image returned to them instantly.

The technology has one potentially provocative use: someone could conceivably send Google a photo of a person — if they fail to remember an acquaintance’s name, for example — and get enough information about him or her to avoid an awkward encounter.

But Google said image recognition technology would have to improve and the privacy implications would have to be more fully considered before it would make that possible. Google Goggles works on phones running Google’s Android operating system and will be available for other phones soon.

Google also outlined developments in voice search, which will make it easier for people to search the Web from a mobile phone. It said it would now allow people to speak their queries to Google in Japanese, in addition to English and Chinese. The company plans to add new languages next year.

Demonstrating the feature, a Japanese-speaking Google employee spoke a long query into a Motorola Droid phone, asking for the best restaurants near Google’s offices in Tokyo. In response, the Droid phone returned a detailed map of the area, with restaurants pinpointed on the page.

“We are just in the third decade of the personal computer revolution, and it may be only now that our eyes open to what the possibilities may be,” said Vic Gundotra, a vice president for engineering at Google, citing improvements in wireless connectivity and Internet services. Mr. Gundotra also demonstrated a tool that would let a person speak a request into her phone in English and have it read back in another language. He said the feature could be introduced next year.

2009年12月6日 星期日