Wanna know how GE gets its tax bill so low? 

There was much outrage when it came out that General Electric paid no federal income taxes last year. "Cronyism" was the charge from some of the conservative critics of GE. Some liberals called for fixing the corporate tax code.

But GE doesn't reduce its tax burden through bribery or cheating, or through naked cronyism. Usually GE relies on -- and helps craft -- policies in the name of some public good: helping the environment, conserving energy, or creating jobs. You can't really fight against the special interests while also promoting government intervention in the economy.

Here's the latest example:

General Electric officials plan to launch construction of their $51 million EPISCenter project in early August, after the Dayton City Commission voted 5-0 Wednesday to approve a 30-year property tax abatement worth an estimated $9.3 million....

“It’s unfortunately the way the game is played today, and I’m grateful to the commission and the schools for participating with us,” said Phil Chick, treasurer of the University of Dayton, which owns the land for the project across from the Dayton Marriott. “I don’t know that GE would have chosen this site without (the TIF) agreement.”

The city’s tax increment financing plan will forgive all property taxes against the facility for 15 years (about $622,000 annually under current tax rates), then split the property taxes evenly between the city and Dayton Public Schools for the next 15 years.

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Timothy P. Carney

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