As we noted yesterday, General Electric took to Twitter to defend its tax practices in the days after The New York Times claimed that the conglomerate employed a variety of strategies to pay no U.S. taxes in 2010. On Twitter, GE Public Affairs maintained that it had paid "significant" U.S. federal income tax, though for a stretch on Monday GE didn't respond to a series of tweeted requests from Business Insider's Henry Blodget to clarify what "significant" entailed.
We now have an answer this morning and, as Blodget sees it, neither GE nor the Times emerges looking particularly good.
In Business Insider's comments section, GE spokesperson Anne Eisele clarified that when GE completes its U.S. income tax filing later this year, it expects to pay at least some U.S. federal income tax. Blodget concludes that "GE was spinning because the taxes paid were just payments on a tax bill that has yet to be calculated--similar to the withholdings that individuals have taken out of their paychecks that are often followed by an end-of year refund. And The New York Times was wrong because, even leaving aside the income tax issue, there is simply no way that GE's US tax bill in 2010 can be fairly described as being 'none.'"
Eisele, meanwhile, doesn't seem to be a fan of the fact-finding mission Blodget embarked on on Twitter yesterday. In her comment, Eisele recommended discussing GE's taxes with Blodget one-on-one: "I find that works better than trying to answer myriad tweets sent to a group PR box comprising a one-way conversation on an issue as complex as corporate tax." It appears, then, that GE sees Twitter as an effective forum for reaching out to journalists and "setting the record straight" in the wake of bad press. But if journalists respond on Twitter and make it a two-way conversation? Well, that's another story.