General Electric, one of the largest and most profitable corporations in the world, isn't immune to criticism, and on Thursday some of their most vocal critics -- their shareholders -- gathered in the lobby of the company's Boston offices to elaborate on their frustrations through song and dance.
"GE pays no taxes -- it's pathetic!" the group began to sing after donning red caps in the GE building's lobby. "Billions in refunds! It's pathetic! You know that ain't fair -- ain't fair anywhere."
The protest was staged by activists with MassUniting.org, which describes itself as "a coalition of neighbors, community groups, faith organizations and labor united for good jobs, corporate accountability, and stronger communities." They group, which said it recruited "dozens" of GE shareholders for the event, targeted the company over their last two years of highly publicized tax returns. GE in Boston has been targeted before too, by protesters with the "Occupy" movement.
GE has become notorious for paying relatively little in taxes on tens of billions in profits, and earlier this year the nonpartisan watchdog group Citizens for Tax Justice said the company’s latest filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reveals that GE massively avoided the official U.S. corporate tax rate of 35 percent by using deductions and loopholes in the tax code, allowing them to reap benefits from taxpayers during years when its profits were down.
GE came under fire last year after its 2010 tax return showed that it paid nothing on $14.2 billion in profits, and actually took in $3.2 billion in refunds from the government. In the wake of reports about GE’s finances in 2010, some of President Barack Obama’s Democratic allies called for GE CEO Jeff Immelt to quit his post leading the president’s council on jobs.
Citizens for Tax Justice said Tuesday that GE paid a tax rate of just 11.3 percent on $14.8 billion in profits for 2011 (PDF), although the company claimed its U.S. rate was closer to 25 percent. The group also said that GE actually had a “negative” tax balance from 2006 through 2011, taking back $2.7 billion from taxpayers despite $39.2 billion "in pretax U.S. profits."
Furthermore, the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning think tank, estimated that in 2010, the top 25 most profitable American corporations paid more to their chief executive officers than the Internal Revenue Service.
President Obama, whose net worth is estimated to be around $5 million, has openly advocated for higher taxes on wealthier Americans to bring their rates in line with those paid by middle class families. He's also proposed a slightly reduced corporate tax rate, and legislation that would close the most frequently used loopholes in the tax code.
Obama's chief political rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), whose net worth is estimated to exceed $200 million, favors lowering rates on wealthy Americans and corporations, and keeping U.S. corporations' foreign profits completely tax free.
This video was published to YouTube on April 12, 2012.