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The credit union tax exemption is based on an outdated 100-year-old law that has never been revisited. Since that time, credit unions have become larger, more complex, and bank-like in their size, powers, product and service offerings, and fields of membership – a trend that has sharply accelerated in recent years.
It is past time to bring credit unions into the 21st century, revoke their privileged status, and tax and regulate them as we do comparable financial institutions. Credit unions were chartered by Congress to enable people of small means with a “common bond” to pool their resources to meet their basic deposit, savings and borrowing needs.
ICBA and community banks are particularly alarmed by the recent trend of credit unions acquiring banks – effectively “weaponizing” their tax subsidy and lax regulatory standards. Larger, out-of-market credit unions are displacing smaller, locally based community banks and other credit unions, creating an environment that is less competitive, has more systemic risk, and offers fewer choices for consumers and small businesses.
Credit union acquisitions of community banks and their branches have accelerated rapidly, with the last five years seeing approximately a 400 percent increase over the previous five years. These deals transform taxable business activity at community banks into tax-exempt activity at credit unions, thereby shrinking the tax base, not only at the federal level but at the state and local level as well.