Europe goes after tax-saving giants
Google, Amazon, others legally pay little or no corporate taxes; EU billing them.
PARIS — A storm is brewing in Europe as nations try to force Internet powerhouses like Google and Amazon to pay more in taxes.
Hungry for money to prop up their struggling economies, governments are accusing the technology giants of incorporating themselves in low-tax countries so they can avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars to countries such as Germany, Britain and France — where most of their European income is derived.
In Britain on Monday, a lawmaker pushing to tighten laws said the multinationals’ ability to escape corporate taxes “is outrageous and an insult to British businesses and individuals who pay their fair share.”
According to court documents, French authorities raided Google’s offices in Paris over the summer and seized documents in a tax dispute. More recently, according to a published report, the French government presented Google with a $2.18 billion tax bill; Amazon acknowledged one for $252 million. Facebook is also in the line of fire.
In Italy, the undersecretary of the Economy Ministry revealed during questioning in parliament that the tax police inspected Google’s books, adding that it found millions in undeclared income and unpaid sales tax.
The politicians are cracking down on U.S.-based multinational companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, claiming they pay little or no tax in Europe in spite of generating billions in revenue there.
But there is nothing illegal to the multinationals’ actions. Due to the way the European Union is run, companies operating in Europe can base themselves in any of the 27 member countries, allowing them to take advantage of a particular country’s low tax rates.
By setting up overseas headquarters in low-tax jurisdictions such as Ireland or Luxembourg and shifting the