If they had not been exempt from income taxes, Utah credit unions would have paid $17 million in state and federal income taxes for 1996 alone. This is lost tax revenue that either had to be made up by other taxpayers, or else government programs suffered because of it. The bottom line is that either you and I would be paying less in taxes, or we would have more money for schools, roads, etc., if credit unions were taxed.

Credit unions' tax exemption dates back to the days of the Depression when credit was hard to come by for many Americans and it was believed that credit unions could help meet this need. Times have changed dramatically.Credit is now easy to come by. Consumers are barraged by credit solicitations all the time. Credit unions today cater to college professors and not the poor. In fact, credit unions are not subject to the Community Reinvestment Act, which requires banks to reach out to low-income people. There is no longer any legitimate reason for the government and the taxpayers to subsidize credit unions.

Yes, a tax exemption is a subsidy. Why should a consumer who chooses to bank at a bank not be entitled to the same subsidized financial services as the consumer who chooses a credit union? Both provide basically the same services. Maybe banks should be tax exempt, too.

Credit unionists argue that they deserve a subsidy because they own their institutions. Big deal. Bank stockholders own their institutions, too, and are likely depositors of their banks. What's the difference?

Credit unionists paint bank stockholders as cold, filthy-rich, white men. In today's world, the owners of a bank probably look very similar to the owners of a credit union. A normal publicly traded bank's true owners are largely middle-income people whose retirement plans, insurance programs or mutual funds have purchased the bank's stock (and other stocks) on the stock market.

The reality is that credit union members enjoy their subsidized financial services whether they deserve it or not. They have made this known to lawmakers. They have been so vocal that lawmakers are afraid to make the fair decision and eliminate credit union tax exemptions. This nation was founded upon principles of fair competition. Why should you have to pay taxes when your competitors don't? People who benefit from programs dependent upon public funds should be outraged that credit unions don't have to pay taxes so that middle-income people and upper-income people (like Jazz star Jeff Hornacek) can receive government-subsidized financial services.

Jon Allen

Associate general counsel

Orem Community Bank