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Paging Keith Olbermann

I look forward to his “Special Comment” on GE’s tax dodge:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — General Electric filed more than 7,000 income tax returns in hundreds of global jurisdictions last year, but when push came to shove, the company owed the U.S. government a whopping bill of $0.

How’d it pull off that trick? By losing lots of money.

GE had plenty of earnings last year — just not in the United States. For tax purposes, the company’s U.S. operations lost $408 million, while its international businesses netted a $10.8 billion profit.

That left GE (GE, Fortune 500) with no U.S. profit left for Uncle Sam to tax. Corporations typically face a 35% federal income tax on their earnings. Thanks to its deductions and adjustments, GE reported an actual U.S. federal income tax rate of negative 10.5%. It got to add a “tax benefit” of $1.1 billion back into its reported earnings.

“This is the first time in at least decades that GE has reported negative U.S. pretax income and it reflects the worst economy since the Great Depression,” Anne Eisele, GE’s director of financial communications, said via e-mail.

But what about the $10.8 billion profit overseas? GE is “indefinitely” deferring income tax payments on those profits, Eisele said.

It may seem like accounting magic, but it’s completely legit.

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