In May 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed the entry for Alphabet Inc on the Opensecrets.org website, which was published in the USA by the Centre for Responsive Politics. This stated that in 2020 so far the company and its employees had made $$5,801,471 in political donations. $86.11% of this went to democrats. It also spent $12,660,000 on lobbying in 2019.

83 out of 103 Alphabet Inc lobbyists in 2019 had previously held government jobs.

Reference:

Open Secrets generic ref 2019 (2 January 2019)

In May 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed an article on the Guardian website titled "Revealed: Google made large contributions to climate change deniers" and dated 11 October 2019. It stated:

"Google has made “substantial” contributions to some of the most notorious climate deniers in Washington despite its insistence that it supports political action on the climate crisis. Among hundreds of groups the company has listed on its website as beneficiaries of its political giving are more than a dozen organisations that have campaigned against climate legislation, questioned the need for action, or actively sought to roll back Obama-era environmental protections.The list includes the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative policy group"

As a result, the company lost a whole mark in the Political Activities category.

Reference:

Revealed: Google made large contributions to climate change deniers (11 October 2019)

A report by Transparency International (TI) from 24 June 2015 stated that the overwhelming majority of lobby meetings held by European Commissioners and their closest advisers were with representatives of corporate interests.

Google was one of the most active lobbyists at this level, with 29 meetings, and it was also one of the biggest spenders in Brussels, declaring an EU lobby budget of around 3.5 million euros per year. The company had a total of 9 registered lobbyists.

TI added, however, that this information "is just part of the picture", as lobbying information was voluntarily filed, and according to TI, "much of the information... is inaccurate, incomplete or outright meaningless". The European Commission's new transparency provisions covered only the highest ranking top 1% of EU officials and 20% of the registered lobby organisations.

Reference:

Lobby meetings with EU policy-makers dominated by corporate interests (24 June 2015)

In May 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Alphabet Inc's 2019 form DEF14A.

It stated that at least four members of staff received over £1 million in total compensation in 2019. The highest paid actually received $280 million.

Ethical Consumer deemed any annual amount over £1million to be excessive. The company therefore lost half a mark under Anti-Social Finance.

Reference:

Google sustainability website (13 May 2020)

In July 2016 the Guardian online published an article entitled "European Commission files third anti trust charge against Google." It said "the European commission has filed a third antitrust charge against Google, this time against its AdSense advertising business."

It accused "Alphabet’s Google of abusing its dominance in search to benefit its own advertising business, which has historically been the company’s main revenue stream." It also reinforced its existing charge against Google’s shopping service, which the regulator said received preferential treatment in search results.

European competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said: “Google has come up with many innovative products that have made a difference to our lives. But that doesn’t give Google the right to deny other companies the chance to compete and innovate. We have also raised concerns that Google has hindered competition by limiting the ability of its competitors to place search adverts on third-party websites, which stifles consumer choice and innovation.”

The commission said it had sent two “statements of objections” to Google and given its parent company, Alphabet, 10 weeks to respond. Google faces fines up to 10% of its global turnover for each case if found guilty of beaching the bloc’s antitrust rules.

A Google spokesperson said: “We believe that our innovations and product improvements have increased choice for European consumers and promote competition. We’ll examine the commission’s renewed cases and provide a detailed response in the coming weeks.”

The EU’s concerns around Google’s adverts relate to the company’s AdSense for Search platform, in which Google act for Search platform, in which Google acts as an intermediary for websites such as those of online retailers, telecoms operators or newspapers, with searches producing results that include search ads.

Google’s AdWords and AdSense programmes, which formed the bulk of Google’s $75bn (£56bn) in revenue in 2015, had been on the EC’s radar since 2010, after rivals complained about unfair advertising exclusivity clauses and undue restrictions on other advertisers.

The EU’s executive branch is already investigating whether Google gives preferential treatment to its own products, including Google Search and Chrome, in its Android operating system. Device manufacturers are obliged to place Google Search and Chrome on the primary home screen of Android devices, as well as other Google apps, if they want to provide access to the Google Play Store - the single largest source of third-party Android apps.

Reference:

European commission files third antitrust charge against Google (14 July 2016)

The Guardian online reported in an artilce entitled "The Spanish tax investigators raid Google's Madrid offices" on the 30th June 2016 that tax investigators in Spain had raided Google’s Madrid offices.
According to the Spanish daily paper El Mundo, which broke the story, authorities suspect Google of not declaring some of its activities in Spain.
It said the investigation centred on VAT payments and taxes on income obtained by companies or people in Spain that were not registered as residents in the country.
A spokesman for the internet company said: “We comply with the tax law in Spain, as in every other country in which we operate. We are cooperating fully with the authorities in Madrid to answer their questions, as always.”

Reference:

Spanish tax investigators raid Google's Madrid offices (30 June 2016)

In May 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Alphabet's family tree on the corporate information website Hoovers.com. According to Hoovers the company had holding companies based in Bermuda and Ireland- jursidications which were on Ethical Consumer's tax haven list at the time of writing. The company also had subsidiaries in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, although these were not considered at high risk of being used for tax avoidance purposes.

According to Google's parent Alphabet's 10K form which was downloaded from the SEC, the company was registered in Delaware. Delaware was at the time of writing considered by Ethical Consumer to be a tax haven jurisidiction. The form contained no country-by-country reporting.

Google had also been heavily criticised by several countries around the world for its tax avoidance methods. This included France who in March 2016 raided its offices following an investigation into its tax affairs.

As a result Google received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for likely use of tax avoidance strategies.

Reference:

Generic Hoovers ref (2020)

The Silicon Six and their $100 billion global tax gap, is a report published by the Fair Tax Mark which examined the tax conduct of Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google and Microsoft over the last decade.
It concludes that the corporation tax paid by the Silicon Six is much lower than is commonly understood. Over the period 2010 to 2019:
* the gap between the expected headline rates of tax and the cash taxes actually paid was $155.3bn
* the gap between the current tax provisions (the amount the companies were expected to pay) and the taxes actually paid was $100.2bn
The report suggests that the bulk of the shortfall almost certainly arose outside the United States. Profits continue to be shifted to tax havens, especially Bermuda, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Amazon has paid just $3.4bn in income taxes this decade, whilst Apple has paid $93.8bn and Microsoft has paid $46.9bn. This is a staggering variance, especially as Amazon’s revenue over this period exceeded that of Microsoft’s by almost $80bn.
Google came third out of six.
In June 2019, Google sought to put the record straight on their tax conduct and asserted that: “Google’s overall global tax rate has been over 23% for the past 10 years, in line with the 23.7% average statutory rate across the member countries of the OECD.” In fact, the cash tax paid as a percentage of profit was just 15.8%.
The trend of low current tax provision in connection with foreign profits continues in 2018, with just $1.25bn booked on $19.1bn of foreign profit, giving a booked current tax rate of just 6.5% - this is less than the company’s already low average for the decade, which is 7.1%.

TaxWatch have estimated that Google has avoided £1.3bn of taxes in the UK over the years 2012-2017
inclusive.

Reference:

The Silicon Six and their $100 billion global tax gap (December 2019)

In an article dated 13 November 2015, Computer Business Review reported that Google was among a number of large corporates to be investigated by EU regulators over its allegedly paying insufficient taxes. This began after documents were exposed by a group of investigative journalists which contained evidence that the company had made secret fiscal deals with Luxembourg which enabled it to pay low taxes.

Reference:

EU parliament to grill US tech giants on Luxenbourg tax fraud (13 November 2015)