Tax Exemption and CUNA-NAFCU Merger Main Topics as NAFCU Caucus Opens

CDFI Certification also discussed as credit union trade association’s annual event gets underway in Washington, D.C.

David Baumann


Sep 12



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David Baumann

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David Baumann

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It’s a long-standing tradition for lawmakers to come to credit union conferences and promise to protect the industry’s tax-exempt status.

But when the chairman of one of the tax-writing committees makes that statement, it has got to be taken more seriously.

“As long as I’m the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, anyone who wants to touch the credit union tax exemption, is going to have to run over me,” Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., whose committee produces tax legislation, told those attending the annual NAFCU Congressional Caucus Monday.

NAFCU members are gathering in Washington, D.C. this week and are being encouraged to meet with their elected representatives.

What Else Did Wyden Say?

Wyden, who said he is a member of the Senate Federal Credit Union, revealed that he also is in favor of raising the credit union member business lending cap.

Further, the chairman noted he is unhappy with Congress’ inability to pass legislation that would provide financial institutions with a regulatory safe harbor for providing services to marijuana-related businesses.

“I share your frustration that Congress could not pass the SAFE Banking Act,” he said, adding that cannabis businesses are having to handle large amounts of cash and are left searching as to where to deposit the money.

“It defies common sense,” Wyden said.

No News Is Bad News on CDFI Certification

A key Treasury Department official told conference attendees that he could not provide a definitive timeline for when the CDFI program might reopen for certifications.

“This process has taken a little while,” Graham Steele, the department’s assistant secretary for financial institutions, said.

The CDFI program has been in a blackout period, while officials sift through comments submitted to the Treasury Department when changes were first proposed. Officials have said they plan to reopen the program sometime this fall.

“We want to get this right when we roll it out,” Steele said, before adding, “I can’t give you a definitive timeline.”

The Elephant in the Room

As the conference began, NAFCU President/CEO Dan Berger was joined on stage by CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle to discuss, as Berger put it, “the elephant in the room.”

Berger was referring to the proposed merger of the two trade groups, to be known as America’s Credit Unions and headed by Nussle.

Nussle told those in attendance that the merger is not being proposed due to any perceived weaknesses.

“CUNA and NAFCU are as strong as they ever have been” he said.

However, he added that with consolidation in the industry, credit unions no longer could afford two large national trade groups.

Where Things Stand on the Merger

Members of both groups currently are voting on whether to approve the proposed merger. During the conference, Berger and Nussle are lobbying members to vote in favor of it.

In an interview, Nussle said that when he discusses the merger with credit union officials, they seek assurances that the consolidated trade group will have a strong advocacy arm.

He added that members also have pressed him on the new organization’s dues structure.

Nussle and Berger are scheduled to hold a “fireside chat” on Tuesday to discuss the merger in more detail.

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