Press Release: General Electric's Ten Year Tax Rate Only Two Percent


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For Immediate Release: February 27, 2012 (rev. 4/12)

Contact: Anne Singer, 202-299-1066, ext. 27

General Electric Paid Only Two Percent Federal Income Tax Rate Over the Past Decade, Citizens for Tax Justice Analysis Finds; Actual Payments Were Probably Lower

Washington, DC – General Electric’s (GE) annual SEC 10-K filing for 2011 (filed February 24, 2012) reveals that the company paid at most two percent of its $80.2 billion in U.S. pretax profits in federal income taxes over the last 10 years.

Following revelations in March 2011 that GE paid no federal income taxes in 2010 and in fact enjoyed $3.3 billion in net tax benefits, GE told AFP (3/29/2011), “GE did not pay US federal taxes last year because we did not owe any.” But don’t worry, GE told Dow Jones Newswires (3/28/2011), “our 2011 tax rate is slated to return to more normal levels with GE Capital’s recovery.”

As it turns out, however, in 2011 GE’s effective federal income tax rate was only 11.3 percent, less than a third the official 35 percent corporate tax rate.

“I don’t think most Americans would consider 11.3 percent, not to mention GE’s long-term effective rate of 1.8 percent, to be ‘normal,’ ” said Bob McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice.  “But for GE, taxes are something to be avoided rather than paid.”

Citizens for Tax Justice’s summary of GE’s federal income taxes over the past decade shows that:

O From 2006 to 2011, GE’s net federal income taxes were negative $3.1 billion, despite $38.2 billion in pretax U.S. profits over the six years.

O Over the past decade, GE’s effective federal income tax rate on its $81.2 billion in pretax U.S. profits has been at most 1.8 percent.

McIntyre noted that GE has yet to pay even that paltry 1.8 percent. In fact, at the end of 2011, GE reports that it has claimed $3.9 billion in cumulative income tax reductions on its tax returns over the years that it has not reported in its shareholder reports — because it expects the IRS will not approve these “uncertain” tax breaks, and GE will have to give the money back.

GE is one of 280 profitable Fortune 500 companies profiled in “Corporate Taxpayers and Corporate Tax Dodgers, 2008-2010.”  The report shows GE is one of 30 major U.S. corporations that paid zero – or less – in federal income taxes in the last three years.  The full report, a joint project of Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, is at http://ctj.org/corporatetaxdodgers/. Page 24 of the report explains “uncertain” tax breaks.

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Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), founded in 1979, is a 501 (c)(4) public interest research and advocacy organization focusing on federal, state and local tax policies and their impact upon our nation (www.ctj.org).

Founded in 1980, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan research organization, based in Washington, DC, that focuses on federal and state tax policy. ITEP's mission is to inform policymakers and the public of the effects of current and proposed tax policies on tax fairness, government budgets, and sound economic policy (www.itepnet.org).

 

Note: GE’s profits and taxes for 2009 and 2010 have been slightly revised from an earlier version of this release. The earlier version inadvertently used GE’s restated 2009 and 2010 figures from GE’s 2011 annual report. Those restated figures excluded the half of NBC that GE sold to Comcast in 2011, and did not reflect GE’s actual results for those two years.

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