I think these are straightforward questions that could be answered via a 2-3 minute email. I’d be glad to see that in my inbox when I get up in the morning. But if you need to call, please do so after 10:00 EDT—I’m in Seattle.


GE’s Andrew S. Williams:

Ryan, thanks for your patience — here is our response:

GE is fully compliant with all tax laws. There are no exceptions.

We will file our 2010 tax returns by September. We expect to have a small federal income tax liability. In 2010, GE paid significant federal income taxes for prior years. We also paid about $1 billion in 2010 in other state, local and federal taxes in the U.S.

The main reason why our tax rate was so low in 2010, was that we lost billions of dollars in GE Capital, our financial arm, as a result of the global financial crisis. Similarly, in 2009 GE Capital’s losses were so large that the total company lost money on its U.S. operations. GE’s tax rate will be much higher in 2011 as GE Capital recovers.

The U.S. tax system is old, complex and uncompetitive. The purpose of the tax code should be that everyone pays their fair share, including GE. But it should also help to promote jobs and competitiveness. It does the opposite today.

GE favors closing loopholes, a lower corporate rate, and a tax system where overseas income is only subject to tax in the country where it’s earned. This would put us in line with every other developed country in the world.

Under any system, GE will comply and pay what it owes.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.