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CUNA queries IRS on UBIT stance
WASHINGTON (2/20/09)—Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Douglas Shulman was asked by a credit union representative to explain the tax agency’s discrepancy in the tax treatment of banks compared with credit unions. Credit Union National Association Counsel for Special Projects Michael Edwards said that Shulman, in a speech Wednesday, referred to a series of IRS issuances that included IRS Notice 2008-100, a tax policy document which allows special tax breaks for bank acquisitions. For instance, under the Notice 2008-100 tax guidance, Wells Fargo & Co. received an approximately $79 billion tax deduction because of its purchase of Wachovia Corp. “How does IRS justify its policy of loosening the tax laws as they pertain to banks, at least in some respects, while simultaneously attempting to expand taxation of credit unions?” Edwards inquired during a Q-and-A session following the speech. The commissioner was addressing The Exchequer Club in Washington, D.C. Shulman responded that the notice was due to “the priorities of the Secretary” at the time, Henry Paulsen, and that he disagreed the bank and credit union issues were comparable. “The real purpose of the question was to make sure Commissioner Shulman was personally aware of what the IRS staff is doing on credit union unrelated business income tax (UBIT),” Edwards said later. He said CUNA intends to follow up the interaction with a letter to the commissioner asking him to review the IRS's position on UBIT. Two credit unions have presented legal challenges to the IRS stance on UBIT. Bellco CU of Greenwood Village, Colo. file a lawsuit last May that seeks a $199,000 refund for UBIT taxes paid 2001-2003. And in Appleton, Wisc., Community First CU filed a similar complaint in January 2008 seeking a $54,000 refund on UBIT taxes from several insurance products.


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