By Bernie Becker - 04/13/11 04:09 PM EDT
General Electric has said a press release stating it would return a $3.2 billion tax refund to the Treasury Department is a hoax.
Anne Eisele, a GE spokeswoman, added that the company “did not receive a tax refund last year,” as the purported release said.
The Yes Men, a group with a history of these sorts of tricks, is behind the fake statement, Reuters reported. In the fake release, which The Associated Press temporarily reported as legitimate, GE said the tax havens it used were entirely legal but that it would phase out its use of havens.
GE has been under criticism since The New York Times reported in March that the conglomerate made more than $14 billion in worldwide profits in 2010, yet paid nothing in taxes to the federal government.
The White House also came under some fire because Jeffrey Immelt, GE’s chief executive, is also the chairman of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
GE pushed back against the story, saying losses incurred by its financial outfit — and not tax avoidance strategies — were the main reason for the corporation’s low 2010 tax rate and that it expected its 2011 bill to rise.
The conglomerate also stressed that reports on its $3.2 billion tax benefit for 2010 did not mean it received a refund.