URGENT: Tax bill may slash graduate stipends in USA

Kimberly Reese kreese at WELCHLINK.WELCH.JHU.EDU
Wed Jul 2 17:19:31 EST 1997


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Please read this carefully, even if you have already heard
about this issue.  We apologize for the length, but feel 
this is a critical issue, and that graduate students 
nationwide need to band together.

***Please forward this Email to your fellow graduate students 
   and faculty at all US universities as well as to family and
   friends who will be supportive of our views, and under-
   graduates who may be considering graduate school in the 
   future.  Please help us spread the word in order to keep 
   your taxes down.  It is urgent that this message be heard 
   across the country by every graduate student*** July 1, 1997

>From the graduate student representative organizations at:
	Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
	Harvard University
	Massachusetts Institute of Technology
	Stanford University
==============================================================

Background:

As you may know, the "Tax Relief Act" of 1997, passed the U.S. 
House of Representatives (H.R. 2014) on Thursday, June 26; a 
different version of the bill passed the Senate (S. 949) on 
Friday, June 27.  The House bill, while providing $135 billion 
in tax relief to many Americans, contains a provision which 
drastically and detrimentally affects graduate students.  A 
short clause phases out section 117(d) of the tax code, the 
section that excludes the value of tuition waivers or tuition
reductions from taxable income.  With the loss of this tuition 
tax exclusion, many graduate students will see their taxes 
raised by thousands of dollars per year.  Examples provided by 
the NAGPS (National Association of Graduate-Professional 
Students) indicate that some of us may see our after-tax wages 
cut by 50% or even more!!

Tuition waivers are used in many graduate programs to assist 
students during their often-lengthy education.  Most of these 
students are obtaining PhDs in academic fields and will go on 
to modestly-paying university positions, possibly after long 
post-doctoral research.  They serve as teaching assistants or 
research assistants in return for not paying tuition, which can
easily exceed $20,000 per year at private institutions.  Under 
the House version of the bill, the value of this tuition waiver 
would be considered taxable income.

Although the House version of this bill is a disaster for 
graduate students, the Senate version does not include the 
repeal of section 117(d) of the tax code.  Because of this 
and many other differences in the House and Senate versions
of the bill, both houses of Congress (as well as the White 
House) will convene to reconcile the two versions of the bill
following the July 4th recess.   At that point, the bill will 
be voted on for final passage, and signed into law.  Our last 
chance to defeat the House bill is through this House-Senate 
Committee, which is expected to begin meeting the week of 
July 7th.

If you have not heard of this issue, contained within the 
highly publicized "Tax Relief Act," it is because this act is 
enormous, containing tax issues involving cigarettes, 
capital gains, and the $500 per child tax credit, to name just 
a few.  It is these other issues which have gained the media's 
attention, and few people seem to be aware of the impending 
disaster for graduate students, higher education, and 
university and research budgets.  **It is our responsibility 
to ensure that our opinions are voiced and that this issue 
gains national attention.

For more background on this situation, see one of the 
following web sites:
NAGPS:
 <http://www.nagps.org/Student_Aid/105th/97_TaxReconciliation.html>
MIT GSC:
 <http://www.mit.edu/activities/gsc/Tax/tax.html>
Harvard GSC:
 <http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~gsc/issues/funding/section117.shtml>

=================================================================

What you can do:

1.  Please forward this Email to all graduate students you know
	at other institutions, as well as your family, your 
	friends, and any undergraduates you know who plan to go 
	to graduate school in the future.  (Maybe media also!)
	Convince them to take action.

2.  Distribute this information to fellow students, faculty,
	department and graduate program directors, and
	administrators within your own institution.  Organize a
	campus-wide response through your local graduate student
	representative group.  Be sure that your administration 
	is on top of this issue and is taking immediate action.

3.  Call (or fax or email) your Senators and Representative!
	It is critical that your voice be heard by your own members 
	of Congress.  Shear numbers of calls will make an impact.

4.  Make a special effort to swamp the members of the Conference 
	Committee with calls, as they will make the ultimate 
	decision in reconciling the bills.  If you are 
	represented by one of these Senators or know someone who 
	is (DE/MS/NY/NM/IA/OK/NJ/ND), make sure contact is made!

=================================================================

How to contact your Senators and Representatives:

House/Senate switchboard:  800-962-3524 or 800-972-3524
       or House: 202-225-3121      Senate: 202-224-3121

Or check <http://congress.org> for addresses, direct phone 
number, district office number, email and more information.

The following senators are members of the Conference Committee 
which will be composing the final version of the bill.  These are 
critical people to target, especially if you live or go to school 
in DE, MS, NY, NM, IA, OK, NJ or ND.
	Roth (R-DE), Lott (R-MS), Moynihan (D-NY), 
	Domenici (R-NM), Grassley (R-IA), Nickles (R-OK), 
	Lautenberg (D-NJ), Conrad (D-ND)

House Conference Committee members will not be announced until
July 7th or 8th.

Congress is now on Independence Day recess (through July 7th) 
and most members will be in their home districts.  Use this 
opportunity to meet with them personally to discuss your concerns.

=================================================================

What to say in your calls and letters:

Please be polite and courteous, but let them know that you oppose
the loss of section 117(d), the tuition tax waiver for graduate 
students.  This waiver is retained in the Senate version (S. 949)
of the Tax Relief Act but eliminated in the House version 
(H.R. 2014).  Be sure to mention that you are concerned that this
issue be carefully considered at the meeting of the Joint House-
Senate Conference Committee to reconcile the two versions of the 
Tax Relief Act.  Explain to them your concerns for higher 
education and for research should the tuition tax waiver be lost.

Here are some specific points to mention:
- how this tax increase will impact your financial status
     (have numbers to illustrate your point)
- how top students will opt to not pursue graduate degrees, 
    threatening America's continued leadership in research
- how graduate students will leave graduate school
- how losing qualified students in your field will impact the US
     (e.g., biology:  cancer and HIV/AIDS research
            engineering/physics:  national defense)
- how this tax will increase costs to universities, leading to
     an increase in undergraduate tuition
- for more specifics, see NAGPS Talking Points:
  <http://www.nagps.org/Student_Aid/105th/Tax_TalkingPoints.html>

WRITE, PHONE, and FAX these issues to your representatives 
immediately.  The more they are aware that there is real and dire 
concern over this issue, the more likely that this issue will be 
removed in the House-Senate Conference Committee.

=================================================================

Thanks for your action!

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Graduate Student Association
gsa-g at welchlink.welch.jhu.edu
<http://www.med.jhu.edu/gsa/GSAmain.html>

Harvard University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
Graduate School Council
gsc at hcs.harvard.edu
<http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~gsc/>

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Graduate Student Council
<http://www.mit.edu/activities/gsc/>

Stanford University
Graduate Student Council
gsc at assu.stanford.edu
<http://pangea.stanford.edu/~owen/gsc.html>





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