That's what I bladdy think of youse bladdy Google bladdy tax bladdy deal, ya bastard Pommie drongoes!
So who among the ranks of the media industry has been carping at Google? Step forward one Keith Rupert Murdoch: Rupe is not a happy bunny. “Google et al broke no tax laws. Now paying token amounts for p r purposes. Won't work. Need strong new laws to pay like the rest of us … Global tech companies making enormous profits most places, funnelling $$ thru tax havens. Unless stopped will ruin local businesses who pay” he whinged.
There was more: “Tech tax breaks facilitated by politicians easily awed by Valley ambassadors like Google chairman Schmidt eg, posh boys in Downing St … Google has cleverly planted dozens of their people in White House, Downing St, other governments. Most brilliant new lobbying effort yet” rambled the News Corp head man, seemingly oblivious to the inconvenient fact of his own recent presence on Downing Street.
Murdoch met George Osborne twice before the recent deal - which will involve significant cuts - was imposed on the BBC, which he sees as a competitor to Sky, in which he is a major shareholder and would like to take over in its entirety. As to lobbying the White House, perhaps Murdoch forgot that he owns the Wall Street Journal, as well as the megaphone that is Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).
But it is when the history of Murdoch’s company tax affairs is examined that he is shown to be standing in a very draughty glasshouse. In 1995, the Independent reported “The publisher of four national titles, including the Times and the Sun, earned pounds 779m in the year to the end of last June alone, but paid only pounds 8.3m tax … In the 10 years since 1986, NI has made accumulated pre-tax profits of pounds 979.4m (net of losses) but paid just pounds 11.74m in net tax, a rate of under 1.2 per cent”.
That is less than half the rate paid by Google in its recent deal with HMRC. It got worse: the BBC told in 1999 “A report in this week's Economist newspaper … states that in the four years to 30 June last year, Mr Murdoch's News Corporation and its subsidiaries paid only A$325m (£128m) in corporate taxes worldwide. That translates as 6% of the A$5.4bn consolidated pre-tax profits for the same period … By comparison another multi-national media empire, Disney, paid 31%”. And it got yet worse.