Tuesday, February 14, 2023

SECU Tax Prep -- Tiny Members Were Such A Bother!

 To: SECU Board of Directors


Dear Chairman Ayers,

Promise I haven't forgotten you on your most important attack on the members' pocketbook - risk based landing (RBL)! But thought a little interesting aside on the issue of dropping tax preparation services might provide you and the SECU Board with some relief.

According to your response to the Annual Meeting Resolution on tax prep, you dropped the service since it served such a "tiny segment of our membership"... and "...in 2022, fewer than 2% of our members used the program". 'Course some folks would say that even 2% of 2.7 million people is a lot of folks. And, folks trying to be fully transparent would probably have also noted that the pandemic and your addition of a fee might have had a "tiny" impact on the level of participation in 2022. Would have been helpful to have noted that pre-pandemic, SECU processed over 100,000 + returns (and rising!), which is closer to 4% of the membership, than 2%. Admittedly, SECU tax prep members, for the most part, weren't "A" paper folks, so...well, just sayin'.

Anyway as you so clearly stated in your Resolution response: "Although our staff diligently and competently prepared tax returns for several years [over 10+], we've come to believe that members are best served by receiving tax preparation services from providers that specialize in tax preparation services."   Does that sentence really make sense to you? "Although our staff diligently and competently prepared tax returns, we've come to believe that members are best served... "...by someone else?!?!

So as you may not know, Mr. Jim Barrett, CEO of Pisgah Legal Services (PLS) in Asheville - with whom SECU has collaborated for years! - contacted one of your retired, "SECU legacy" senior leaders in Asheville to ask for some help. [First, can't say enough about all the good works that Mr. Barrett and PLS have done over the years in western N.C. [link - here look for yourselves],]  Mr. Barrett said VITA tax returns weren't getting done this year - and folks in western N.C. are in jeopardy of penalties, delayed refunds, and most importantly, the loss of the earned income tax credit (EITC), which so many rely on to get by.  Was there any way that SECU could help? Any way that you and the SECU Board might change your minds?  That "legacy" leader of course gave Mr. Barrett the local SECU contact information.

In general, North Carolinians earning less than @$60,000 can qualify for up to $7,430 in an EITC (a tax credit or a direct cash refund!)

And the good news is once again you have backed up on a bad decision (like centralizing collections - remember RBL # 1?) - well sorta!. Pisgah Legal Services got this response from SECU: "Good morning Jim, I am sorry for the delay in getting back to you. We have gotten the go-ahead from HR and Legal to send an email to former SECU tax preparers to see if they would be interested in preparing taxes for Pisgah Legal." Guess the SECU Board has now decided that rather than pay SECU employees extra to be trained and to prepare tax returns, as was done in the past; it is better - and less "disruptive" - to ask them to do it for free on their own time! Certain that the staff are very appreciative of this new benefit you have provided!

As to that disruptive impact - "...while imposing an extreme burden on staff and disrupting services to the rest of the membership ." (from your response); you conveniently failed to mention it was a "drop off" service for those 'tiny' members. During tax season, members dropped off their "tax stuff" and the staff told them: "We'll call you when it's ready, usually it takes 10 days to two weeks." Not much "disruptive" about that is there, as you imply? Why isn't a full loaf of the truth delivered to the membership in your responses - rather than just selected slices?

According to Pisgah Legal Services:
  • An estimated 1 in 5 children live in poverty in western N.C.
  • An estimated 165,00 people - 19% of the population - are low income in western N.C.
  • Many of these folks are members of SECU.
In all of its 85 year history, SECU has never had a bad year doing good, for the people of North Carolina.

image.pngWell, guess that's about it...was going to wish you a Happy Valentine's Day!
But maybe, have a heart would be more appropriate!


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