Corrected to reflect the fact that the AP story was real, but based on a fake press release.NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- General Electric ( GE - Get Report) was the victim of a fake press release that said it would "repay its entire $3.2 billion tax refund to the U.S. Treasury on April 18," according to spokeswoman Anne Eisele. "It is a hoax," Eisele wrote via email. TheStreet did not see the press release, though it initially fooled the Associated Press, which published a story online that Eisele said was based on the press release. Associated Press spokesman Paul Colford confirmed the news organization had published a story based on the fake news release. He said the AP retracted the story. The erroneous AP story also stated that GE "plans to phase out tax havens over 5 years and said it will create one job in the US for each new job it creates overseas." General Electric has faced intense criticism over its low tax bill since The New York Times recently published a front page article saying the company will pay no Federal taxes despite earning more than $14 billion in profits in 2010. The Timesstory also stated that GE "claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion." GE has intensely contested any attempts in the press to characterize the benefit as a refund. The debate is difficult to pin down, though it has highlighted two facts: first, that GE is among the most clever companies in the U.S. when it comes to minimizing its taxes, and second, that the corporate tax code is so complex it is extremely difficult to reach any firm conclusions about how much a giant company like GE actually pays. -- Written by Dan Freed in New York.
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