The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.
Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.
Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.’s giant tax department, led by a bow-tied former Treasury
official named John Samuels, is often referred to as the world’s best tax law firm. Indeed, the company’s slogan “Imagination at Work” fits this department well. The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.
Over the last decade, G.E. has spent tens of millions of dollars to push for changes in tax law, from more generous depreciation schedules on jet engines to “green energy” credits for its wind turbines
. But the most lucrative of these measures allows G.E. to operate a vast leasing and lending business abroad with profits that face little foreign taxes and no American taxes as long as the money remains overseas.