Fighting the grad student tax

I’m throwing this post up quickly, because time is of the essence. I had hoped someone else would do the work. If they did, please link them in the comments.

As many of you know, the US House and Senate have passed revisions to the tax code. According to the House, but not the Senate draft, graduate tuition remissions are taxed as income. Thus, here at U Michigan, our graduate stipend is 19K and our tuition is 12K. If the House version takes effect, our students would be billed as if receiving 31K without getting a penny more to pay it with.

It is thus crucial which version of the bill goes forward. The first meeting of the reconciliation committee is TONIGHT, at 6 PM Eastern Time. Please contact your congress people. You can look up their contact information here. Even if they are clearly on the right side of this issue, they need to be able to report how many calls they have gotten about it when arguing with their colleagues. Remember — be polite, make it clear what you are asking for, and make it clear that you live and vote in their district. If you work at a large public university in their district, you may want to point out the effect this will have on that university.

I’ll try to look up information about congress people who are specifically on the committee or otherwise particularly vulnerable. Jordan Ellenberg wrote a “friends only” facebook post relevant to this, which I encourage him to repost publicly, on his blog or in the comments here.

UPDATE According to the Wall Street Journal, the grad tax is out. Ordinarily, I thank my congress people when they’ve been on the right side of an issue and won. (Congress people are human, and appreciate thanks too!) In this case, I believe the negotiations happened largely in secret, so I’m not sure who deserves thanks. If anyone knows, feel free to post below.

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2 thoughts on “Fighting the grad student tax

  1. Hi David: not sure which post you meant, but here’s a link I posted to a twitter thread by Chris Marsicano (now a couple weeks old) about how to lobby against the grad student tax:

    Oh, you probably meant the thing I just posted with a list of relevant House reps. That’s from Alexander Chee’s post:

  2. Econ 101: The incidence of a tax doesn’t necessarily fall on the taxed. University exploitation of grad students is abetted by the favourable tax structure. Billion-dollar universities don’t have to pay graduate students in real money, which makes graduate students that much more attractive to shove the university’s work (teaching young people) onto.

    Econ -003: This is just one example of a specialty condition which complicates the US tax code. There is an EconTalk with a flat-tax* advocate who claims that citizens of a few post-Soviet states (with a new government and a clean slate on which to write the tax code) — I think Estonia among them — can fit their tax form on a postcard.

    * This flat tax only kicks in above a threshold, so the poor do pay less. Complicated tax codes abet bureaucracy and give advantage to those who can afford to pay many people to help them flout the intent of the law — like Apple Computer.

    Econ 202: Government spending is transparent when done on the spending side and opaque when done through the (non)taxation side. However, lowering taxes shares the advantage with bidding out contracts that the government itself doesn’t have to figure out what to do with the money.

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