General Electric Co. refuted a statement claiming the company would return a “$3.2 billion tax refund” for 2010, following criticism of its tax rates and policies.
“It is a hoax,” said Anne Eisele, a GE spokeswoman. The statement, which purported to be from GE Communications, claimed the Fairfield, Connecticut-based company was responding to a “public outcry” and would “allow the public to decide how to spend” the returned money.
Responsibility for the hoax was claimed by US Uncut, a group protesting corporate tax issues and government service cutbacks.
“By pretending GE did the right thing by re-gifting their tax refund, we hold them accountable to that better future,” said Andrew Boyd, a spokesman. “People are moving very fast and are going to reprint the release, and we think there’s also an unconscious motivation that they’re happy to see the news.”
The Associated Press mistakenly published a story based on the fake statement, which was sent by e-mail and included a GE logo and a link to a website designed to look like GE’s.
“The AP did not follow its own standards in this case for verifying the authenticity of a news release,” Hal Ritter, business editor, said in a story AP published about the event.
Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt has said he’s happy to defend GE’s tax rate.
“Like any American, we do like to keep our tax rate low,” Immelt said in a speech March 31 at the Economic Club of Washington. “But we do it in a compliant way, and there are no exceptions.”
Immelt, who is also chairman of GE, commented after a March 24 report in the New York Times that GE had a tax bill of zero in 2010, an assertion the company called misleading on its GE Reports website.
GE refuted the tax bill claim specifically and said the company received no rebate, refund or payment from the government on its 2010 taxes.