by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
search engines, tax, uk


UK Gov't Considers Google Tax?

from the but-why? dept

Calvin was the first of a few folks to send in this story about how some in the UK gov't are discussing a series of different proposals to raise tax revenue to pay for the production of news programs on TV, with one option being creating a search engine tax, directed at Google. It seems that basically everyone admits there's no actual justification for the tax other than "Google is making a lot of money, and we need that money." Of course, it's worth pointing out that it sounds like the discussions are still quite preliminary and there are plenty who don't think it's a very good idea. The same group has also been tossing around suggestions for a broadband tax or a digital download tax that would be used in the same manner. Considering how early on the discussions are, it doesn't seem like much to get worked up about, but it is quite silly that this is even up for discussion in the first place. As people point out in the article, this would be taxing a successful growing company, helping to slow down its growth, to help fund an operation that hasn't been growing. That doesn't seem likely to help the economy very much.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 6:46am

    I'm proud to be an American...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    [censored], May 4th, 2009 @ 6:49am

    Another example of how the analog status quo thinks its entitled make money forever without changing. Those who want to tax the Internet to maintain established industries better tread carefully because the day may come when the Internet wants to tax them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 6:51am


    You don't tax Google...Google taxes you!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    yozoo, May 4th, 2009 @ 6:57am

    big problem

    How do we dump crates of "Google" into the Harbor in protest? Damn I think they got us on this one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 7:09am

    haha google can just block access to all of it's services in the UK I'm pretty sure then it will be one of the shortest lived taxes ever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 7:18am

    Yes, because the UK Government never does anything unpopular. They would never try to impose a retrsospective car tax on all new vehicles from years ago, or say, increasing import tax on port companies and backdating the tax to 2005, whilst in the midst of a recession.

    That Government? Nah, they would try taxing Google...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Joe, May 4th, 2009 @ 7:27am


    Me too, but don't hold your breath. As tech dirt has been pointing out, ridiculous Internet taxes are making their way to the Internet in the north east already.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 7:29am

    Re: Post 1

    You know Obama is going to make this happen here to, how do you think we are going yo keep bailing out banks and car makers?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Matt Bennett, May 4th, 2009 @ 7:44am

    How the hell is the UK going to tax a US company? The UK taxes Google, Google says, "Um, no?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    JP, May 4th, 2009 @ 7:53am


    Google UK Ltd
    Belgrave House
    76 Buckingham Palace Road
    London SW1W 9TQ
    United Kingdom
    Phone: +44 (0)20-7031-3000
    Fax: +44 (0)20-7031-3001

    should do it.........

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Silly American, May 4th, 2009 @ 7:54am


    Oh thats right, America doesn't tax.. Moron!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    FC, May 4th, 2009 @ 8:17am

    Re: Re:

    close it, finger to the queen!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 8:18am

    Re: Re:

    Oh thats right, America doesn't tax
    Yes, thank you, I know that America has taxes. Not my point.
    I'm glad that, at this time, America doesn't have interwebz tax.
    Good day, xenophobe.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    PRMan, May 4th, 2009 @ 8:20am

    It would be cheaper...

    It would be cheaper to close the Google UK offices, I think.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    fogbugzd, May 4th, 2009 @ 8:53am

    How long will the line be?

    If they tax Google there will be a lot of companies lining up to claim their "fair" share of the tax. Meanwhile the tax will increase the cost for Google to send traffic their way, hastening the decline of businesses that are relying on the Google tax rather than trying to take advantage of the opportunities that Google presents.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Flyfish, May 4th, 2009 @ 8:53am

    Is it any wonder why google has looked at moving all their servers onto ships/platforms outside the territorial limits?
    We're seeing the beginning of an age of confiscation thanks to the left.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Chargone, May 4th, 2009 @ 9:11am

    Re: (Flyfish. really, this 're:' box is useless if the person you're replying to didn't enter a subject)

    worth noting that the so called 'left' [which is a fairly nonsense term anyway] isn't the only one. it's just useual for the more 'left' instances of it to spend the money on actual infrastructure, while the 'right' does exactly the same crap, calls it a different name, and uses it to prop up some big business or other.

    both with little or no care for the public or reality, and much for lining their own pockets, be it in money or influence, and pushing on with their blind ideology.

    [amusingly, I'd have said basically the same thing (inverted where applicable) if the comment had been directed at the 'right']

    also, 'google tax' ? what the heck? that's just dumb. i mean, google's a business, right? they have an office there? so they already get caught by the appropriate normal taxes.

    a general tax on internet/broadband access isn't as idiotic, but at least a large port of it Better be going into providing that service. and the rest should be paying for other things of similar nature.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Greenbird, May 4th, 2009 @ 9:13am

    Even more importantly

    I'm surprised you missed the even more critical effect of such a tax. Although it'll slow Google's growth, even more importantly it'll likely stop the next Google and actually make competing with Google much more difficult. Thus it'll actually decrease competition in the space. And we all know that's a bad thing. Without competition you end up with another Microsoft.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Matt Bennett, May 4th, 2009 @ 9:23am

    Re: Re:

    Google's branch offices are mostly ad sales locations, as I understand it, and with only a few people in them, at that. Obviously, they can shut it down with minimal impact.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    dennis parrott, May 4th, 2009 @ 9:41am

    Cut 'em off at the knees...

    If I were Google I would immediately announce that everyone employed by Google UK would be let go effective next week and in the same announcement I would simply say "oh by the way, British IP addresses will no longer be able to access google.com or any of its worldwide assets from that day forward".

    And then I'd see what the morons in Parliament would have to say about that.

    Search engines are a requirement for civilized Internet "living". Want to have some stupid transfer the wealth to your pals who fund your campaigns scheme? Well, lets see how well your people like having their access to search engines cut off?

    Politicians all over world act like they are entitled to somebody's cash because they exist! Total rubbish. Government needs to learn about real budgeting and "impulse control" just like the rest of us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    yozoo, May 4th, 2009 @ 10:11am

    Re: Cut 'em off at the knees...

    dont tax you, dont tax me . . . tax that guy behind the tree!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 10:11am

    Very simple. Place a notice on Google.co.uk:

    Please note that Parliament is considering an unjust tax on Google. If the tax passes, we will close off all access to the UK. If you do not wish this to happen, contact your MP.

    If the tax is passed, close off search capabilities to British IP addresses, and redirect Google.co.uk to a page that explains the tax, and provides links to the websites with the contact information of Parliament.

    Assuming that this tax would affect all search engines, Google should strike a deal with Microsoft and Yahoo to do a blanket boycott.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    yozoo, May 4th, 2009 @ 10:41am


    Wow - this is gonna create a whole new kinda "pirate bay" problem for them LOL

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Michael Foord, May 4th, 2009 @ 11:55am

    Online companies prima-facie exempt from tax?

    I don't see why companies that make money online should prima-facie be exempt from tax?

    Arguing that taxing new and growing business areas is a bad idea is one argument - but how new is online advertising?

    Google will only pass the cost of the tax onto customers anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Michael Foord, May 4th, 2009 @ 11:58am

    Block access to the UK?

    For those suggesting that google just block access to the UK:

    First off if they are still making money then they just won't do that.

    Secondly the tax would be on those buying advertising not those being advertised to. They could stop selling advertising in the UK - but see above...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Ben, May 4th, 2009 @ 12:03pm

    Atlas Shrugged, anyone?

    Does anyone else see shades of Atlas Shrugged in the recent government ploys to tax businesses for being successful? This, plus the EU's stance on Microsoft--what's next?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Duane, May 4th, 2009 @ 12:10pm

    There may be a kernel of wisdom here...

    I think that this is a deplorable money-grab by typical short-sighted politicians. Plain and simple, no bones about it.

    But, In the way that things sometimes occur, it has sparked a hair-brained idea in my mind. First, sweep away all the trappins of traditional broadcast TV. (tall order that, but this is hypothetical) Imagine for a minute with me a hybrid content delivery system, based on Internet sttreaming, Internet downloading, and (possibly) traditional cable/broadcast formats as well. Borrow a little bit from the UK's model, and license every TV, computer, MID, etc. upon which you can receieve content (whether or not you do) which is personally owned by an individual, or installed in a residence, with a monthly fee to be paid in. Content distributors (youtube, your local cable co, broadcasters, etc.) and content producers (you, me, professional production companies, etc) would get paid out based on the number of relative views in a given month their content generated, or whom they served content to, on a simple mathematical basis. Content delivery and Content production each get half, so if I produced (for instance) 1% of all the video views this month (probably prorated based on the length of the product), then I get 1/2% of all the money brought in across the whole system. Professional content producers who make a quality product would be expected to beat out most of the silly cats, guys getting hit in the crotch and other assorted oddments which are all over YouTube. Downloaded or time-shifted content could be tagged, not with restrictive DRM, but with a code which allows the player software to check in with a server somewhere to tally the playtime used. Content distributors would be free to add advertisements to the content, if they feel the market will bear it, and that may be how broadcasters would continue to offset their higher operating costs. Content producers could supplement their income by doing product placements, or producing entertaining shows which are also advertisements. The tradeoff here would be that any content put into the system would be freely playable by anyone subscribing to the system (which would effectively be everyone), for as long as it is available to them for viewing (forever if they downloaded it).. the flip side is that content producers can keep getting paid out each month for people viewing their content. The other stipulation is that it's an open platform. Any distributor may publish any content they like, and no exclusives or restrictions can be placed on the works by the content producers.

    Of course the technology behind such a platform would need to be solid and as unobtrusive as possible to the end users. Some kind of a content clearinghouse might be needed, since the concept of "networks" might be obsolete.

    Of course, I'm talking about video content here, but you could just as easily do something with music, audiobooks, e-books, any kind of digital media whose consumption can be measured. If you look into print-on-demand publishing, you might be able to replace all of the traditional book establishment with this kind of system too, perhaps with the end-user paying a printing fee for having the digital goods translated into a physical form. If you wanted to burn up your own printer, you could do it at home, but a kiosk-sized machine could perhaps produce a bound book while you shop in the mall.

    Wow, I went far afield wit that, and I realize none of that is exactly new, but it's a business model that would virtually eliminate piracy as we know it, because everyone would be paying into the system anyway, so there would be little need to restrict the flow of information. This would put the MPAA and RIAA back in the business of getting the word out about their fine products, and not acting like a private police agency. Of course, this is a pipe dream, but I had fun dreaming it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. icon
    Zaphod (profile), May 4th, 2009 @ 5:04pm

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again...

    I still say any time some entity threatens Google, and attempts to carve off a slice of Google's pie for themselves...

    Google should take the pie away. It doesn't matter if that entity is a media giant like Viacom, a "rights" group like the RIAA or MPAA, or a government wanting to tax them from abroad, they need to be reprimanded. They need to see what the internet would be like without Google, or any of their associated engines. Yes, this means in an act of solidarity, Yahoo, MSN search, and all the other engines should pull their services, just for a time, and simultaneously so.

    It's time for people to stop trying to take money for what they did not create. Casual digital pirates don't create, but they don't take money for other people's work. Google doesn't create, and they don't take money for their content (They take money for services rendered to those who wish to use them for an advertising medium, and thus support our free use.)

    *** conversely ***

    Governments take money, because they can. RIAA and MPAA, and their affiliated companies take money because they can. None of them create content themselves, and neither give back what is due to the content creators. If you don't believe me, try to create content without playing by the rules of any of those groups, and watch what happens. The gov. will use something like the FTC, IRS, or DoJ to shut you down. The media-opoly will suppress your content under a mountain of takedowns, lawsuits, and paid shills in the press disdaining your work. However, offer yourself up on their plate, and everything's fine.

    Yes, this was a cloaked attack against the legal profession in general, Mike M. excluded. How about let's tear away the cloak? If you look at it honestly, behind most of these problems of people wanting something for no effort on their part, you will find an attorney making a buck. It's that simple.

    Oh, and don't forget the attorney making a buck defending you too. Unless he's doing it all pro bono, then he's a walking god.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Aidantheawesome, May 5th, 2009 @ 5:48am


    THIS JUST IN: N00bish government officials are proposing a tax on the use of online material that is posted. Senator/prime minster I.M.A.Pawn has said "The money we collect from this tax will be used to support the mpaa and riaa, as someone could mention a copywrite while googling something, therefore dening the industry their $9,785,274 in royalties."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Chuck Norris, May 7th, 2009 @ 11:09am

    Chuck Norris will come for U(K)

    The UK wants to tax Google with a "search engine tax"?

    Watch out!

    Chuck Norris will tax the UK!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2009 @ 2:49pm

    The BBC is currently paid for by television tax (tv licence), and used to be paid for by the radio licence. If the BBC remains popular with the British public while content moves more and more online, then some sort of internet licence is the obvious next step for funding. It is a public service organisation, and so will be paid for by one tax or another.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    affiliate marketing tips, Jan 15th, 2010 @ 3:48pm

    No matter what

    I like what Anonymous Coward said:

    You don't tax Google...Google taxes you!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Non Dom, May 5th, 2011 @ 7:15am

    I can see both sides

    Wherever they see too much money, they see an untapped industry to be taxed. Still, I suppose it's a viable idea - Google is one of the largest multinational companies and perhaps should be encouraged to give more back to the territories it makes so much money from.

    The non dom tax argument is quite similar - just like Google, these people benefit the wider economy with their highly successful business ventures, so where should the regulation start and when is too much that will encourage them to leave completely?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    David Young, Nov 18th, 2011 @ 8:53am

    Good thing that didnt happen

    As a small business I need to save where I can, I don't need google taxes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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