DeLauro: GE’s Immelt shouldn’t have Obama’s ear on tax reform

Democrats were enthusiastic about President Barack Obama’s call for tax reform last week, part of his speech addressing the nation’s annual deficits and debt.

But Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, has at least one condition: General Electric’s chief executive Jeffrey Immelt should not have Obama’s ear when it comes to figuring out which special-interest tax loopholes to close.

DeLauro’s reason? The recent New York Times report detailing how the Connecticut-based corporate giant escaped paying any taxes in 2010, despite making profits of $5.1 billion from its U.S. operations. Immelt, in addition to leading GE, is also head of Obama’s Jobs and Competitiveness Council, an advisory group that provides economic advice to the White House.

“We do not believe it is in the U.S. interest to have the heads of multinational corporations that pursue strategies to avoid U.S. taxes advising your Administration,” DeLauro and other House Democrats wrote in a letter to Obama on Friday. “

We believe it is critical to, as you stated, eliminate loopholes and level the playing field,” the lawmakers said. But just as important, “corporate tax reform must be implemented in such a way so that U.S. multinational corporations that have outsourced jobs and investment overseas are incentivized to invest in American workers to create good, well-paying middle class jobs at home.”

GE has disputed the Times report, and the Washington Post did a follow-up story in which a G.E. spokesman said the company expected to “have a small U.S. income tax liability for 2010.” The spokesman, Gary Sheffer, refused to say how much it would pay though.

No matter what its final IRS bill for last year, DeLauro and others aren’t like to be too thrilled if Immelt has any insiders’ role in figuring out how to simplify the tax code for individuals and businesses.