Credit Unions' IRA Authority Error Could Have Impacted IDAs and HSAs
WASHINGTON-As President George W. Bush signed The Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004 (H.R. 1308) into law last week to extend the marriage penalty tax cuts and child tax credits, credit unions also officially regained an authority that had slipped through a technical crack. While doing research work for the charitable giving bill in the Senate that would permit credit unions to offer Individual Development Accounts, NCUA Associate Director of External Affairs Gail Noren stumbled upon a costly omission for federal credit unions. When the Federal Credit Union Act was updated in the mid-1980s, she said, the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) was never modified to reflect the changes. Consequently, the IRC only referenced state-chartered credit unions with regard to offering Individual Retirement Accounts and omitted federal credit unions, Noren explained, though congressional intent was clear. A legislative amendment was necessary to fix the problem, Noren said. The error could also have impacted credit unions' ability to offer IDAs and Health Savings Accounts. "It's really a technical fix that needed to be done," NAFCU Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Brad Thaler said. His organization learned of the problem earlier this year from Noren and had quietly been working to usher it through Congress, along with NCUA. Apparently, their work paid off. The technical correction added onto H.R. 1308 sailed through Congress without any trouble, according to Thaler. He added that he was not sure if the banking groups ever got wind of the problem. "We didn't want to bring a lot of attention to this and make it a political issue," he said.