I’ve hosted my personal domains on Google Apps for years without issue, to the point that I switched over to a paid account sometime back to get extra email routing options and to remove the adverts. However, just today, Google sent out the following email (I’ve added the highlight/bold):
Your Google Apps tax setting will change in the next few weeks
We’re writing to let you know about a change to Google Apps that will affect your account for apps.andrewallen.co.uk. We will be changing your tax setting in Google Apps to “business” from its existing setting of “personal” in the next few weeks. After this change, we won’t add VAT to your Google Apps charges, and you’ll be responsible for determining taxes due in your country if you’re not an Irish customer. If you are an Irish customer, you will still be charged VAT.
A “business” tax setting means that your Google Apps account is used for commercial purposes. We believe that your account is a business account, which includes corporates, affiliates, sole traders, self-employed merchants or professionals, and partnerships.
If you are using Google Apps for non-business reasons, then you will be allowed to sign up again as non-business account. We will send another communication with details about how to sign up again.
The Google Apps Team
No contact details were provided, and return emails just bounced. Makes you wonder, how do they decide (incorrectly in my case) if you’re a business? Do they read your emails, your calendar and make assumptions? Is a human even involved, or is this a result of data mining all the information they hold on you from across all their services? Oh, and they graciously say I’ll “be allowed” to sign up again as a non-business account.
It suddenly feels like, even though I pay for services, I have no control or say over my own account. Even I can’t decide my own status. An Orwellian moment.
Update: Thursday, 9th October, 2014
I called up Google support over lunch to ask for clarification. The response was that all european Google Apps for Work customers will be switched over to a busines account setting, sometime in mid-November. I asked, what about all the other individuals who are not businesses and use Google Apps for personal use, and the response after a couple of minutes on hold was that there will be an email sent out sometime afterwards, which will allow users to switch the setting back to personal.
Why would Google make such a bad broad assumption? Why cause unecessary work for it’s customers? My immediate thought is this is some kind of accounting dodge – I am no way an expert and it’s just personal opinion, but if Google no longer have to account for collecting tax from customers across all the various countries of Europe and instead put the onus back onto their customers, it’s got to same them some money, right? And with a number of large corporates being added to those being investigated by the European Commission for the way they operate their tax arrangements, including now Amazon, I don’t believe it will be long before Google joins the same list.
In any case, the original email was terribly worded and insinuated that it’s customers were acting nefariously in some way, and in my book that is totally unacceptable.