GE to Save Big on Obama Tax Backtrack

FAIRFIELD, Conn. ( TheStreet) -- General Electric ( GE) just saved several billion dollars a year, assuming the top story in the Wall Street Journal Tuesday is on target.

The Obama administration was expected to close loopholes that currently allow U.S. companies to pay very little tax on much of what they earn abroad. But the proposals, which were projected to raise more than $200 billion in new revenues for the U.S. Treasury over ten years, are now off the table, the paper reported.

Tax consultant Robert Willens was stunned by Tuesday's report.

"I was well aware of the lobbying that was going on, but I thought the Obama administration would be immune to it," says Willens, a former managing director at Lehman Brothers.

Willens previously estimated the changes would have raised GE's tax rate on the whole to 28-30%. GE was taxed at a 5.5% rate in 2008, so a 28% rate would have reduced the $18.09 billion it earned from ongoing businesses by $4.31 billion.

"The proposals would have certainly curtailed a lot of GE's ability to defer taxes on its foreign income and therefore would have increased their tax burden by quite a lot. Certainly several billion seems within the ballpark," Willens says.

While GE is probably the company that stands to benefit more than any other by maintaining the status quo, others now breathing a huge sigh of relief include The Coca-Cola Company ( KO), Hewlett-Packard Company ( HPQ), Merck & Co. ( MRK), Pfizer, Inc. ( PFE) and IBM ( IBM), Willens says.

So far, at least, the market seems unfazed by the news. GE's shares were down 0.92% to $16.18 in mid-morning trading Tuesday.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.

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