Credit unions and their members are taking extraordinary measures to deliver an urgent message to federal lawmakers: “Don’t tax my credit union!”
They’re heeding a call from CUNA and the state credit union leagues to join the fight to preserve credit unions’ tax status as policymakers in Washington, D.C., consider rebuilding the tax code from the ground up.
“Policy is being formulated on Capitol Hill now, so we must act now—we can’t wait,” says CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney. “It’s rare that credit unions call on their 96 million members to take action, but our members are the best spokespeople we have, especially on an issue as vital to our future as this.
“Once members realize what’s at stake, they’re our best allies in this fight,” Cheney continues. “They get it. And members understand that, while we work on their behalf to preserve credit unions, we need their voices to be heard loud and clear in the national policy discussion. Any tax on credit unions is really a tax on members because credit unions are cooperatively owned by the people they serve. If credit unions were taxed, credit union benefits to members and communities would be lost, and a consumer-friendly option in the financial marketplace would vanish.”
That fact, and a heightened tax threat, is what motivated CUNA and its affiliated state credit union leagues to launch the nationwide grassroots- mobilization campaign urging Americans to deliver a united message to Congress.
“Preserving the credit union tax status and the benefits it conveys to members is always a top priority of CUNA and the leagues,” Cheney explains. “What’s changed is that Congress is talking about starting tax reform talks with a blank sheet of paper. They’re no longer just talking about closing loopholes. A blank sheet of paper means everyone has lost their tax exemption— not just credit unions—and must fight their way back into the tax code.”
CUNA is making the case for credit unions’ tax status on multiple fronts. Among them are:
• Meeting with staff members of the powerful, tax policy-writing House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee;
• Writing letters to lawmakers emphasizing its value to all Americans;
• Launching the nationwide grassroots campaign; and
• Providing resources through CUNA’s Tax Status Advocacy Toolkit to support advocacy efforts by credit unions and their members.
“We can’t assume members understand the value proposition of credit union membership,” says Paul Gentile, CUNA’s executive vice president of strategic communications and engagement. “We must work collaboratively to communicate it to them. CUNA is giving credit unions the tools they need to take the ‘value’ message to their members. Like all effective communication efforts, we need to be consistent and continue to tell our remarkable story.”
CUNA launched a consumer-facing website, DontTaxMyCreditUnion.org, complete with an educational video and links for advocates to take action by contacting their members of Congress via email or social media. Social media—using the @CUNA advocacy handle and #DontTaxMyCU hashtag on Twitter, and the CUNA Advocacy account on Facebook— is a key component of the campaign.
CUNA’s Tax Status Advocacy Toolkit (available at cuna.org) contains images, Web banners, a suggested action plan, newsletter articles, sample email communications to members of Congress, suggestions on how to use social media to back advocacy efforts, and other tools.
Credit unions and their state leagues have wasted no time in spreading the message, “Don’t tax my credit union!”
CUS DECLARED TAX-EXEMPT IN 1917
Credit unions were declared tax-exempt by a ruling by the U.S. attorney general in 1917, and Congress conveyed that exemption from federal income tax to state- and federally chartered credit unions because of their ownership structure and special mission. The exemption has been reaffirmed many times—in 1935, 1936, 1937, 1951, and 1998.
Credit unions’ structure as not-for-profit financial cooperatives allows them to focus solely on member value and service, and it discourages credit unions from taking the types of risks banks take in the name of profits.
The not-for-profit structure also creates significant member benefits, including lower rates on loans, lower fees on services, and higher returns on deposits. Nonmembers also benefit from credit unions’ exceptional service and market presence, which keeps competitive pressure on banks.
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