This month’s cover story focuses on one of the most important— and largest— initiatives CUNA has ever undertaken: “Don’t Tax My Credit Union.”
It’s one of several underway now. Seemingly, “Don’t Tax” and the others—“Unite for Good” and “Plan to Win”—are separate and distinct. But a closer look shows how closely these initiatives work together.
They each share the same goal: Strengthen credit unions, improve their operating environment, and ensure a lasting future presence.
It’s a lot to manage. But our ability to successfully achieve these initiatives rests on their interaction.
“Don’t Tax My Credit Union” focuses on preserving the taxexempt status of credit unions. At press time, there’s no specific legislation in Congress that calls for removing or altering the tax exemption. But lawmakers are talking about reforming federal tax laws and taking a “blank sheet” approach. This means creating a new tax code that might—or might not—include provisions from existing rules.
If this approach takes hold, credit unions will be one of hundreds of groups (we estimate more than 400) likely facing a loss of their own tax preferences. And those groups just as likely will howl about losing their tax status.
Our challenge is to be heard— loud and clear. We want lawmakers to hear us before they decide winners and losers of tax status, regardless of whether they start with a blank sheet or just amend current tax law.
And with 96 million credit union members, our chance of howling loudest and longest is very good.
Our strategy is to engage those millions of members and urge them to tell Congress today, “Don’t tax my credit union!”
CUNA and the leagues have been preparing for this grassroots onslaught for years.
Since the passage of the Credit Union Membership Access Act (H.R. 1151) in 1998, we’ve learned that to successfully advance our issues with Congress we must develop as many Senate and House champions as possible. We accomplish this through a combination of stubborn contact and enlightened political action.
We’ve formalized this approach in the “Plan to Win” initiative, which aims to develop close contact with every member of Congress— a 535-seat strategy. When credit union members become more fully engaged in the “Don’t Tax My Credit Union” campaign, the spadework done through “Plan to Win” can potentially develop an explosion of contacts with Congress on this vital issue.
These efforts all serve our third initiative: “Unite for Good.”
That’s the rallying cry to instill a shared strategic vision for the credit union movement: “Americans choose credit unions as their best financial partner.”
To realize that vision, we’ve developed a “shared agenda” for credit unions that includes three goals:
1. Remove barriers;
2. Create awareness; and
3. Foster service excellence.
When we “unite for good,” we believe we can accomplish this agenda, and attain the vision.
A critical part of our agenda to “remove barriers” (those existing in statute or regulation that impede credit union service to more Americans) is taking advocacy action and political action. Our “Plan to Win” already outlines many actions, such as involvement in Project Zip Code, Hike the Hill outings, and commenting on proposed regulations.
If credit unions truly employ their muscle for “Don’t Tax My Credit Union”—toned by the body-building exercises of “Plan to Win”—we can realize the full-power potential of credit unions, and make great strides in other areas, too.
We’ll likely “remove barriers,” enhance the credit union charter, and establish credit unions as Americans’ best financial partner.
We’ll accomplish all of that while preserving our tax exemption and increasing our political effectiveness.
A lot to manage? Absolutely. Worth the effort? No question. Achievable? We believe so.
All of these initiatives work together to accomplish the same goal: A better, stronger, long-lasting credit union movement.