White House, taxes and the CEO who shall not be named

GE chief executive Jeff Immelt lead a key business advisory panel for President Obama.GE chief executive Jeff Immelt lead a key business advisory panel for President Obama. By Charles Riley, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The Obama administration has been talking about corporate tax reform a lot lately. And so it was on Friday -- but not through prepared bullet points.

Reporters peppered White House Press Secretary Jay Carney with questions about a story in the New York Times detailing the efforts of General Electric to avoid paying taxes.

At issue: GE chief executive Jeff Immelt's side job as head of Obama's innovation and jobs council.

Corporations typically face a 35% federal income tax, but many end up never paying that amount.

One aim of tax reform is to lower the corporate tax rate while greatly scaling back tax breaks and loopholes that allow many corporations to pay less in tax.

Thanks to its deductions, adjustments and offshore profit centers, GE (GE, Fortune 500) has paid a rate of exactly zero for two consecutive years. (Read CNNMoney's 2010 report on GE's tax rate)

The Times hit the story hard on its front page Friday morning.

Obama has repeatedly expressed a desire to fix the corporate tax code. In January, he called for tax reform in his State of the Union address, just a few days after he chose Immelt to head an economic advisory council.

On Friday, Carney didn't want to talk about GE.

"I don't know about this specific company's balance sheet or its tax returns," he said. "I've read the story. I'm saying I don't have my own assessment to make of it."

Carney reiterated Obama's commitment to reform, but made clear he was not referring specifically to GE. "Again, not addressing this specific company because I don't know independently about that," he said.

General Electric's tax strategy is a perfectly legal thing for a corporation to do -- and it has been widely reported on. A spokeswoman for GE stressed that the company expects its tax rate to increase this year and that GE "pays what it owes under the law."

The White House did not respond to CNNMoney's request for comment.

Later in the press conference, Carney was asked whether Obama still had confidence in Immelt's ability to run the jobs council.

"Yes, he does," said Carney, who maintained Obama will continue to press for corporate tax code reform.

"In the end, the decisions that are made about which policy to pursue on corporate tax reform will be the president's decision and his policy," Carney said. "He very much wants to take on this issue."  To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,563.30 -317.06 -1.88%
Nasdaq 4,369.77 -93.13 -2.09%
S&P 500 1,930.67 -39.40 -2.00%
Treasuries 2.52 -0.03 -1.21%
Data as of 9:23am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Twenty-First Century... 31.67 -0.33 -1.03%
EMC Corp 29.30 -0.60 -2.01%
Yum! Brands Inc 69.40 -3.60 -4.93%
Xerox Corp 13.26 -0.08 -0.60%
Qualcomm Inc 73.72 -2.32 -3.05%
Data as of Jul 31

Sections

Malaysia Airlines was in major trouble even before the twin disasters of Flight 370 and Flight 17 claimed the lives of 537 people. More

The U.S. economy added 209,000 jobs in July. But that's lower than the number of jobs added In June ... and it was not as strong as what economists expected. More

LinkedIn shares surged in after-hours trading Thursday following strong second-quarter earnings, following the likes of Facebook and Twitter. More

Terrell White has had a profit-sharing plan for his employees since 1981, believing that if the staff isn't happy, guests won't be either. More

Get paid to go on vacation, receive a couple of bonus weeks at the end of the year or take as much time as you need. Such vacation policies are more than a dream at some small, niche -- and often tech-based -- companies. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.