WASHINGTON-After a Letter to the Editor appeared in the American Banker last month advocating the taxation of credit unions, the leaders of two national credit union trade associations responded with the business end of their pens. "Far more than the tax exemption, it's their not-for-profit structure and volunteer-based governance that enable credit unions to offer lower fees, more attractive rates, and more personalized service than their for-profit competitors," CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica wrote. He also said that CUNA studies demonstrated that credit unions return $5 in lower costs to their members for every dollar of tax savings. Mica added that he would wager that little to none of banks' tax savings make it back to their accountholders. While the banker letter writer argued that `fiscal uncertainty' and `national emergency' call for the taxation of credit unions, NAFCU President and CEO Fred Becker argued the complete opposite. "I would contend that the very worst time to press for a major structural change in credit unions, like taxing them, is precisely during times of great stress on our nation," Becker wrote. "When you add all the recent financial scandals into the mix, credit unions' rock-solid safety-and-soundness record, along with unparalleled customer service and lower fees, are exactly what the nation needs during these times." Mica realized his wish for the New Year is unlikely to come true, but he wrote it anyway. "Maybe it's too much to ask," he wrote, "but perhaps in the new year the banking industry can focus on what's best for consumers rather than using hollow, timeworn arguments in the hope of thwarting competition and consumer choice."

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