WASHINGTON (2/27/08)--Consumers in Latin America need comprehensive financial services, and untaxed cooperatives can provide them with more affordable services, said the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) during “Financial Inclusion in the Americas,” a two-day conference on consumer finances. The conference brought together 80 participants including industry officials from the U.S., Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, to discuss how the countries can create more inclusive and broadly available services for their citizens. “In our experience, credit union systems grow and provide greater outreach when they are able to offer necessary products and services,” said Dave Grace, WOCCU vice president of association services. “The credit unions require unfettered access to payment systems, credit bureaus, card service providers and networks in order to do that.” Credit unions in Latin American countries are struggling in a share draft battle similar to the one U.S. credit unions fought in the 1970s, Grace said. “Of the countries represented, only Guatemala requires credit unions to pay income tax,” he added. “Taxation can be a threat to credit union survival, and ensuring tax exemption is a clear and demonstrable way for governments to encourage access to financial services.” The U.S. Treasury Department is in favor of increased credit union access to the population and has agreed to provide technical assistance to the four Latin American countries to broaden access to financial services, Grace said.