WASHINGTON (5/2/13)--Ninety-six million members' voices could potentially be heard in support of credit unions as Capitol Hill tax reform discussions continue in the coming weeks, Credit Union National Association Executive Vice President of Strategic Communications Paul Gentile wrote in a Wednesday CUinsight.com editorial. The more credit unions educate their members on tax issues, Gentile noted, the more likely members are to communicate their support for credit unions.
"If all members knew that for every $1 of their tax exemption, $10 goes back to consumers in better rates and lower fees, it would be a lot easier to get members to advocate for the exemption and as importantly, to reinforce why they do business at a credit union," Gentile wrote.
However, some members don't understand which taxes credit unions do and do not pay, and most may not be aware of the credit union tax exemption, he warned. "CUNA's own research shows that the more credit union members understand the value of the tax exemption, the more likely they are to proactively take action to protect it."
The Senate Finance Committee and House Ways & Means Committee are both studying comprehensive tax reform.
"No one, other than the bankers, is targeting the credit union tax exemption," Gentile said. However, all tax preferences are on the table, and "the status of the credit union tax exemption can't really be defined one way or the other.
"That alone is cause for vigilance," Gentile wrote.
So, how can credit unions reach out and educate their members? Overall, Gentile said, credit unions must get more comfortable with messaging their members about their structure. He pointed out that CUNA's Tax Advocacy Toolkit, which includes sample newsletter articles, advertisements, op-eds, and other messaging resources, gives credit unions a great start. Social media such as Twitter and Facebook provides another avenue for credit unions to tell their story to members.
"CUNA is aggressively monitoring the tax reform discussion on the Hill and is actively engaged with lawmakers on the issue, but credit union members are our most powerful advocate. If credit unions can drive home the message of credit union value, we will not only be able to advocate for the exemption but for other proactive legislative issues down the line," Gentile said.
Gentile noted that CUNA launched a new vision for the credit union system in February: "Americans Choose Credit Unions as Their Best Financial Partner."
"We feel strongly that if the system unites together and Unites for Good, we can make that vision a reality. By educating your members on the value of the credit union structure, you can play a key role in moving that vision forward," he concluded.
For the full op-ed and more on CUNA's Tax Toolkit and strategic vision for the credit union system, use the resource links.