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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Tax Protest in Britain Focuses on Google

In Britain, the debate over tax-reduction strategies employed by American technology giants is taking a populist turn.

While a United States Senate panel scrutinizes Apple's use of Ireland as a tax shelter, attention in Britain has focused on Google, which employs a similar system.

A group of drama students plans to take to the streets of London on Friday to promote what it calls a “Google Free Day.”

The goal, the students say, is to protest what they see as Google's minimal contribution to the British treasury. In 2011 the company paid about $10 million in taxes in Britain, where it recorded more than $4 billion in sales. The protest is also intended to highlight Internet users' growing dependence on Google's online services, ranging from its search engine to Google Maps to YouTube.

“The tax issue is kind of a case in point,” said Adam Taylor, a graduate student at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. “This is what happens when you have all these services going through one organization.”

To make their case in a creative way, Mr. Taylor and a group of about 15 other students plan a campaign that blends high- and low-tech elements.

On Friday, he said, the students will encourage Internet users to send search queries through Twitter, where they have set up the hashtag #askmum for the occasion. They will then take these questions out onto the streets of the London neighborhood of Camden, where they will ask pedestrians for answers.

“We're calling it a proxy search engine,” Mr. Taylor said. “It might be a bit slower than the 0.6 seconds that it takes on Google. Maybe two or three minutes.”