Kate Hicks

So much paper, so little substance. It's well known that GE didn't pay any income taxes in 2010; but now, we're learning that they filed a massive tax return that yielded nothing.

General Electric, one of the largest corporations in America, filed a whopping 57,000-page federal tax return earlier this year but didn't pay taxes on $14 billion in profits. The return, which was filed electronically, would have been 19 feet high if printed out and stacked.

The fact that GE paid no taxes in 2010 was widely reported earlier this year, but the size of its tax return first came to light when House budget committee chairman Paul Ryan (R, Wisc.) made the case for corporate tax reform at a recent town hall. "GE was able to utilize all of these various loopholes, all of these various deductions--it's legal," Ryan said. Nine billion dollars of GE's profits came overseas, outside the jurisdiction of U.S. tax law. GE wasn't taxed on $5 billion in U.S. profits because it utilized numerous deductions and tax credits, including tax breaks for investments in low-income housing, green energy, research and development, as well as depreciation of property.

"I asked the GE tax officer, 'How long was your tax form?'" Ryan said. "He said, 'Well, we file electronically, we don't measure in pages.'" Ryan asked for an estimate, which came back at a stunning 57,000 pages. When Ryan relayed the story at the townhall meeting in Janesville, there were audible gasps from the crowd. 

Of course, as Ryan pointed out in his meeting, this is a prime example of the need for corporate tax reform. Ryan proposed a sensible alternative to the current system, in which loopholes allow for absurd results like GE's: "Get rid of those loopholes and lower tax rates by a corresponding amount. Don't lose revenue, but for every loophole you pull out, and deny a company from being able to get this little carveout, you can lower the rates so we can be more competitive with our competitors overseas."

GE has already come under scrutinty for sending jobs to China, and now this. Stellar record for Obama's "Jobs Czar," isn't it?


Kate Hicks

Kate Hicks is one of Townhall.com's web editors. You can follow her on Twitter @KateBHicks.