The next step for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is that it will “go to conference” where the differences between the House and Senate versions will be reconciled. The result will then go to the President for his signature into law.
A brief recap of how the tax bill affects the American Mathematical Society’s interests in supporting graduate students:
The House bill would require students to report tuition fee waivers as taxable income. We are concerned about this, as mathematics graduate students would be affected. About 60% of the 145,000 students who receive tuition waivers are in STEM fields. According to Nature, “higher taxes could be one more disincentive to pursuing an advanced degree, given the already bleak prospects in an oversaturated academic job market and the flat budgets at science-funding agencies.” This tax provision is not good policy, at a time when we need to train more — not fewer — Americans with STEM backgrounds.
One news source gives an example of a PhD student at the University of Washington. She is from the Midwest and her out-of-state tuition is \$30,000 a year. The university pays her a yearly stipend of about \$31,000 in exchange for her work in research and as a teaching assistant. In 2016, she paid income taxes on that teaching stipend and ended up owing the government \$2,334. If the House provision becomes law, the grant that covers tuition will be viewed as additional income. If the numbers remain the same, this student’s total income before deductions becomes \$61,398 — nearly double what she filed last year. She would owe \$7,488, about \$5,000 more.
The Senate rejects this tax on tuition waivers that appears in the House bill.
There are two actions you can take today to speak out against the tax that will hurt our graduate students:
Action 1: The House Conferees are set. The Republican Conferees are Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX 8), Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR 2), Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT 1), Devin Nunes (R-CA 22), Peter Roskam (R-IL 6), Budget Chairwoman Diane Black (R-TN 6), Kristi Noem (R-SD at large), Don Young (R-AK at large) and John Shimkus (R-IL 15). The Democratic Conferees are Ways and Means ranking member Richard Neal (D-MA 1.), Sandy Levin (D-MI 9), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX 35), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ 3) and Kathy Castor (D-FL 14).
If you are a constituent of any of these Representatives, you can write to them with your concerns.
Senate-side, the conferees are also set, they are: Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), John Cornyn (R-TX), John Thune (R-SD), Rob Portman (R-OH), Tim Scott (R-SC), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bernard Sanders (D-VT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Tom Carper (D-DE), and Patty Murray (D-WA).
Action 2: Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX 32) is leading a letter to House and Senate leadership to strongly oppose the repeal of the income exclusion for graduate tuition waivers. Please consider asking representatives from your House delegations to sign-on to the letter, to support our graduate students. You can find your House member via the “Quick Links” at the upper right corner of this Office’s website:
And, if you live in one district and your university is in another, reach out to both Representatives!
You can tell your Representative that they should contact Ron Donado at firstname.lastname@example.org if they would like to sign on to the letter.
The deadline for sign-on is Friday, December 8th at 12:00 p.m.
While the deadline for Action 2 has passed, it is not too late to do Action 1.
The AMS Government Relations Office in Washington DC is launching a Grass Roots Advocacy Program in 2018. You will be able to opt-in, and receive Action Alerts and other news from us. This will make it very easy to respond to such calls to action such as this one. Stay tuned!