Jeffrey Immelt, GE's CEO, defended his company on March 31 against criticism that it dodged U.S. federal taxes last year. These allegations have sparked calls for his resignation as head of a government council.
Immelt admitted "like any American we do like to keep our tax rate low," but said the firm's tax-free 2010 came thanks to losses at its financial arm GE Capital.
The company paid no federal taxes last year despite earning more than five billion dollars in the United States.
That has prompted calls from left-leaning groups like MoveOn.org for him to be sacked from his role as head of President Barack Obama's new jobs and competitiveness council.
Last week GE spokeswoman Anne Eisele rejected suggestions the fourth-largest company in the United States was gaming the system. "GE did not pay U.S. federal taxes last year because we did not owe any," she said.
Immelt, speaking at The Economic Club of Washington, indicated the firm's taxes would increase as profits improve this year. In the meantime, he said, corporate tax reform "deserves a healthy debate."
"Our system is old, complex and uncompetitive."
Addressing issues related to GE's involvement in nuclear power and links to failing reactors in Japan, Immelt said the industry would gain expertise as it addresses the crisis. "I think we will learn a lot about the industry as we go through this."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011
GE 'Zero' U.S. Tax Furor Reignites Calls for Reform