The Internal Revenue Service announced a major milestone in its corporate e-file program -- the successful e-filing of the nation's largest tax return from General Electric Corp. on May 18.

On paper, the IRS said that the company's return would have been approximately 24,000 pages long. Instead, GE submitted the return as a 237 MB file, and received acknowledgement of the filing from the IRS in about an hour.

"GE is a shining example," IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson said during a conference call. "We owe them gratitude for having embraced [e-filing] in the way they have. ... If a taxpayer with the structure, size and sophistication as GE can do it, we believe other corporations will notice and find it hard to discount what GE has achieved relative to the hurdles ahead of them."

This is the first year that certain large corporations with assets in excess of $50 million were required to file electronically. The IRS expects more than 10,000 of these large corporations to e-file by the extended filing date of Sept. 15. More than 4,750 large corporations have already e-filed this year, including 3,042 with assets of $50 million or more.

"For GE, digitization is a strategic priority," said GE vice president and senior tax counsel John Samuels, in a statement. "The IRS is truly committed to this process and they made resources available to us around the clock, seven days a week to enable us to meet our filing deadline."

On the advice of stakeholders, the IRS has designed the corporate and tax-exempt organizations e-file program to be flexible to accommodate the various needs of these organizations. In some cases, the IRS will accept PDF files and even paper documents as part of an electronic return.E-file has been available to corporations on a voluntary basis since 2004. In 2005, more than 200,000 corporations filed their corporate income tax returns electronically.

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