If there was a point to yesterday’s Public Accounts Committee grilling of Google execs over the company’s tax affairs, it’s not immediately clear what it was. The company’s European MD was hauled in front of MPs to re-live the glory days of 2012, when Margaret Hodge directed the pantomime and politicians were able to ride the fun side of public outrage. The perceived paltry tax returns of a whole host of large corporates were under the spotlight then, and a swell of consumer activism and boycotts led many large organisations to think again.
Yesterday though, was different and frankly, pretty underwhelming. Whilst today’s headlines crow over the slip from Matt Brittin that he doesn’t know what his salary is, the answer to such a question is really besides the point. It has nothing to do with what MPs were supposedly there to investigate and was a blatant play for headlines rather than an effort to get to the root of what still is a matter of considerable public concern. That approach sort of worked back in the climate of 2012, but it doesn’t anymore. The reality is that no one, least of all the politicos, came out of yesterday’s session looking particularly good.
So overall, Google nil, Public Accounts Committee nil. The voting public and our understanding of how tax payments are determined for large corporates? Definitely, nil.