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    When it comes to tax reform, let’s act but not overreact

    I spent a day in Washington, D.C., last week speaking with a variety of political experts about the possibility of major tax reform legislation being introduced and enacted in 2014. The only realistic answer to all my questions was “maybe.”

    There is widespread agreement that the Tax Code needs to be overhauled and that tax reform legislation will be introduced – possibly as early as next week. Proposals could come from both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

    But after that it’s pure speculation. Could a repeal of the fraternal exemption (along with the repeal of other exemptions, credits, and preferences) be included? Maybe. Could a repeal of the tax exempt status of inside build-up of life insurance policies be included? Maybe. Could one of or both of these bills gain traction and realistic consideration by Congress in 2014? Maybe.

    There are a host of obstacles stacked up in front of any tax reform legislation, including: the partisan political stalemate in Congress, the fact that 2014 is a congressional election year, and the fact that the terms of the Chairs of both the Ways and Means (Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.) and Finance (Sen. Max Baucus, R-Mont.) Committees will end next year.

    are you prepared

    The secret is just one thing…

    So how can fraternals put themselves in the best position to influence legislation that may or may not be introduced and may or may not include a provision that repeals our tax-exempt status? I’m glad you asked. Because the secret is doing just one thing – being prepared.

    If we learned anything from our recent grassroots campaign to contact U.S. Senators and express our views on the “blank slate” tax reform concept (where all exemptions would be repealed and those with a tax preference would have to fight their way back in to the Tax Code), it was this:  societies that can quickly communicate with their key audiences via email (primarily agents and local chapter leaders) generated the greatest number of emails to Senators through the Alliance’s web-based grassroots system. We also learned that many societies have woefully little capacity to quickly email their constituents because they simply don’t have their email addresses.

    So what’s the one thing I’d like you to do between now and year-end? Make it your mission to collect accurate email address for your field force and your local chapter officers. If every member society did this, we would exponentially increase our ability to communicate with individuals who would be likely to contact their elected leaders on issues important to your society and the fraternal system.

    There are other things you can do, too. Such as:

    • Let the Alliance know how many individuals you have the ability to email and who those folks are (i.e. society employees, captive or independent agents, local chapter officers, etc.). We don’t want to collect those email addresses from you; we only want to know how many folks you can quickly communicate with and urge to take action on a key public policy issue.
    • Let the Alliance know if you are willing to send these individuals periodic emails updating them on key public policy issues so that they are well-informed if the time comes to ask them to reach out to their elected leaders. The Alliance will supply you all the materials you need to communicate with these important grassroots contacts.

    If we can accomplish these simple tasks, we can dramatically improve our ability to communicate with public policymakers who may very well be deciding the fate of your society and the fraternal system. Are you willing to join in this effort?

    And another thing…

    As heartbreaking as it is to watch the news coverage of the disaster in the Philippines, what’s more disturbing to me is that fraternals lack a central mechanism that would allow members from any society to go on-line and make a cash donation to a relief fund. I’m sure individual societies, chapters, and members are working hard to collect funds and supplies to assist those devastated by the typhoon. But wouldn’t it be more impactful if there was a way we could concentrate our disparate activities into one consolidated effort? Just a thought. I welcome yours…

    4 Responses

    1. Joe, You are always spot on.Just want you to know I always read your comments with the greatest of interest. Bill Knoll, NSS Life

    2. Joe, Woman’s Life is willing to periodically send emails to our agents and chapter leaders on key public policy issues. Of course, we would appreciate the Alliance providing those materials.

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