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EU competition commissioner says she'd consider launching a probe into a tax deal Google made with Britain's government


LONDON — The European Union could investigate the 130 million-pound ($186 million) deal for back taxes struck between Britain and Google, after furious opposition lawmakers suggested the Internet company should have paid more.

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager told the BBC on Thursday it was too soon to say whether a probe would be launched. She said the EU "will take a look" if appropriate concerns are brought to her attention.

"If we find there is something to be concerned about, if someone writes to us and says this is maybe not as it should be, then we will take a look," Vestager said.

The Scottish National Party asked for such an investigation on Wednesday, with deputy party leader Stewart Hosie arguing that the public was skeptical about the settlement.

"Considering the lack of transparency in the settlement reached between HMRC (the U.K. tax and customs authority) and Google, and the growing concerns of an opaque methodology having been employed, it is my view that an independent verification of this settlement would establish confidence that the settlement is within the boundaries of state aid regulations and is a fair deal for the taxpayers of the United Kingdom," he wrote.

Vestager's spokesman, Ricardo Cardoso, said later that "we will look into it and then decide where to move from there."

Writing in the Financial Times, Google's vice president of communications, Peter Barron, insisted the company paid tax at the standard corporate rate of 20 percent.

"Governments make tax law, the tax authorities independently enforce the law, and Google complies with the law," he wrote.

The anger of lawmakers has been stoked by reports that France and Italy were in talks to squeeze more out of the company.

In Italy, the financial police confirmed news reports Thursday that Google was under investigation for allegedly avoiding up to around 300 million euros ($326 million) in taxes. Italian daily La Repubblica reported that the investigation stems from Google activities in Italy from 2008-2013, when Google allegedly declared its fiscal headquarters in Ireland.

Italy has brought several cases against global technology companies that have headquarters in low-tax nations like Ireland to avoid paying higher taxes in other countries, like Italy. In December, Apple agreed to pay Italy 318 million euros in back taxes covering the same time period now contested against Google.

At the time of Apple's settlement, Google said it was working with Italian tax authorities to determine what it might owe.

Google Inc. is based in Mountain View, California.

Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this story.

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