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TheStreet Open House

Bank Tax Could Benefit Small Lenders

CHICAGO (TheStreet) -- The Obama administration's proposed tax on the nation's largest banks could cause short-term pain for consumers, but potentially long-term gains for customers and small banks, says Chicago economist Mike Moebs.

Last week, President Barack Obama presented a plan to help the government recoup the estimated $117 billion cost of the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The 10-year tax would impact intuitions with more than $50 billion in assets. Top banks, including Bank of America (BAC), Goldman Sachs (GS) and Citigroup (C), could be hit with annual levies of $1 billion to 2 billion.

Moebs, chief executive of economic research firm Moebs Services, says consumers and small businesses would shoulder most of the tax in the form of higher fees on loans and services. But the initial burden could give way to a new competitive landscape that would create more options for customers and drive more business to community banks and credit unions.

Banks with more than $50 billion in assets control 44% of U.S. consumer checking accounts, Moebs says. That massive market share could be chipped away as customers turn to smaller institutions, which could offer more competitive prices because they wouldn't have to pass the tax to clients.

"Taxing big banks effectively says to the marketplace, 'Don't do business with them,'" Moebs says. "Their prices are going to be too high and, if they are not, they are going to have lower income and shareholders will start dumping the stock. Why should I be in Goldman, Chase or MetLife (MET), when I can turn to smaller banks, insurance companies and security firms that will give me a greater return"

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