Google tax deal ‘not a glorious moment’, says minister

Business secretary Sajid Javid says he shared Britons’ sense of injustice as criticism grows of agreement with tech firm

A senior government minister has admitted the tax settlement between Google and the UK government “was not a glorious moment”.

The admission by the business secretary, Sajid Javid, came as a senior executive from Google claimed he could not say how much UK profit has been generated by the technology firm in the past decade, or how many meetings had been held between the company’s executives and ministers.

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Google’s low tax rate stretches our patience, and Osborne’s crowing stretches credulity

The Google affair reveals gaping holes in our tax system – from the smoke and mirrors of royalty payments, to the charade of the tech giant’s Irish question

First, the case for the defence. It is not true that Google pays UK corporation tax at a rate of only 3%. That is not possible. Corporation tax, currently 20%, is the same for all companies.

Nor is it true that Google paid no tax at all before the settlement earlier this month with HM Revenue & Customs. Google UK’s accounts show a £20m tax payment in 2013, for example. The bill for back taxes of £130m, covering the past 10 years, arises from an audit by HMRC that was started in 2009. And, finally, the company’s statement that it “complies with the law” is 100% accurate. It now has a stamp of approval from HMRC to demonstrate as much.

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Can Google’s AlphaGo really feel it in its algorithms? | John Naughton

When the game-playing system AlphaGo defeated a master of the Chinese game go five games to nil, its creators could not explain why. Is this a sign of intuitive AI?

Last week, researchers at the artificial intelligence company DeepMind, which is now owned by Google, announced an extraordinary breakthrough: in October last, a DeepMind computing system called AlphaGo had defeated the reigning European champion player of the ancient Chinese game go by five games to nil. The victory was announced last week in a paper published in the scientific journal Nature.

So what? Computers have been getting better and better at board games for yonks. Way back in the dark ages of 1997, for example, IBM’s Deep Blue machine beat the then world chess champion, Garry Kasparov, at chess. So surely go, which is played not with six different pieces but black and white tokens – would be a pushover? Not so: the number of possible positions in go outnumber the number of atoms in the universe and far exceed the number of possibilities in chess.

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