General Electric ( GE) investors are finding taxes are becoming an ever-growing concern.

Major changes in how U.S. companies pay taxes on foreign earnings are widely seen as inevitable, and no company is likely to take as big a hit as GE, according to tax expert Robert Willens, a longtime Lehman Brothers executive who now runs his own consulting firm.

Willens says analysts at Lehman used to ask him whether GE would continue to be able to claim that most of its income was earned in countries with low tax rates.

"That's always been a big concern of analysts -- when this game would end -- and it looks like this is when it's going to end," he says, arguing that a raft of changes in proposed legislation proposed by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.) stand a very strong chance of being enacted.

Willens and Nick Heymann, an analyst at Sterne Agee, estimate GE will end up paying a tax rate of about 28% to 30%, assuming, as expected, new laws are passed and take effect in 2011. That compares to the 5.5% GE paid in 2008, 15.6% in 2007 and 16.9% in 2006.

The result would mean billions of dollars subtracted from GE earnings. In 2008, for example, if GE had paid a tax rate of 28% instead of 5.5%, it would have earned $13.78 billion from its ongoing businesses, instead of $18.09 billion -- a $4.31 billion hit to earnings.

If you liked this article you might like

GE Is 'One of the Toughest Stocks I've Ever Had to Deal With,' Jim Cramer Says

GE Axes Fleet of Corporate Jets to Save Money Amid Sales Slump

GE's Toxic Price Action Has Legs -- Next Shoe to Drop

Trian Said to be Close to Acquiring Seat on GE's Board

General Electric's New CEO Has One Easy Choice