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France and Germany Considering Google Tax on Searches

12.04.12

Yahoo recently reported stated that French President Francois Hollande wants a tax on Google, and other search engines each time they use French media content. Google has threatened to exclude French media websites from search results to avoid paying this new tax. Apparently the goal of the new tax would be to “reward French media content.” Yahoo also noted that Germany is considering a similar tax. How taxing Google and others for showing French media in results helps French media, may be confusing. Perhaps over time we will learn more about that.

Legally any such tax plan, to the extent it taxes searches, is not so simple. Each user on Google agrees to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy that controls the use of the information search and privacy. So the contract is entered between Google and the user, and the local governments are not a party to those contractual terms unless some valid local law so prescribes. 

What legal right does a government have to require any search engine to report search results where no money changes hands between Google and the user? In plain English, there does not appear to be a taxable event. So what tax law could apply to obligate Google to pay a search tax?
 

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