From the May-08, 2002 issue of Credit Union Times Magazine • Subscribe!
A tax attack
<p>I have some concern the credit union industry is taking our tax-exemption for granted and even abused in isolated cases. At the same time, it is hypocritical for bankers to label credit unions as unpatriotic freeloaders because we do not pay taxes. At a recent birthday party in my neighborhood I caught the full brunt of the banking community's latest propaganda. A personal banker/loan officer from an Alaskan bank accused me of being "un-American" because my credit union does not pay taxes. She went on to brag how she recently talked a customer out of an AlaskaUSA loan by convincing the customer that credit unions are tax-dodging parasites. I took her verbal abuse because a) it was an unsuspected attack, b) I try to maintain certain social decorum, and c) as I was gathering my wits, the host, who works for a San Diego based bank, quickly threw in his anti-credit union verbal jabs. Had I been prepared for this confrontation, I would have fought back with a few counter-punches including: If paying taxes makes a better American, why do bankers seize every opportunity to minimize their tax obligation? Does the ABA view a Sub-chapter S bank, which does not pay taxes, as a patriot? Are banks promoting un-American behavior by selling IRA's, which allow customers to reduce Uncle Sam's tax bite? Are bank employees less patriotic because they enjoy 401k plans specifically designed to reduce taxes? The arrogance of the banking community allows itself to think it is smarter than Congress. Congress, not the ABA or America's Community Bankers, establishes the tax code for the overall good of the country. Congress did not ignorantly grant credit unions' tax exemption, and it does not blindly allow the exemption to continue. Congress recognizes the social value credit unions provide and is willing to forego tax income as a trade-off. If the banking community redirected its anti-credit union efforts to more productive areas, their net gain would more than offset the credit union effect. And, I would not feel guilty about going to a Mariner game with tickets given to me by US Bank. But, it's a tax write-off for them, so live and let live. Dale Kerslake President/CEO Cascade FCU Seattle, Wash.</p>