Across the country, graduate students are realizing the impact that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), if enacted, will have on us. In particular, the removal of an exemption for qualified tuition expenses means that for many students, our taxable income will be nearly twice what actually reaches our pockets. A UC Berkeley graduate student, Vetri Velan, wrote a short document that summarizes the impacts:
In addition, we’ve put together an interactive google sheet, where graduate students can see the impact the plan will have on their individual tax burden:
An unfortunate result of tax impacts like these may be a decreased number of graduate students in the United States. Innovation, economic growth, research outcomes – they all depend on graduate students.
Tax impacts such as these will cost the United States in students. If students shoulder this tax burden, then fewer students (especially lower income students) will be able to afford graduate school in the sciences, humanities, and arts. If schools shoulder the burden, as some have suggested, the likely outcome is fewer students accepted into graduate programs. Either way, America ends up with fewer trained experts in fields from physics to political science and studio art to sociology.
Some students will benefit from the TCJA if passed, in particular students on federally funded fellowships. Students with these fellowships, which are awarded for academic merit, do not currently fall under the exemption being removed, so their tax burden may actually decrease under TCJA. For international students (and out-of-state students at state institutions like the University of California), the impacts of the TCJA are hard to quantify. Not enough information has been gleaned from the available information to know what types of tuition payments qualify as taxable income.
We need more information.
Call or email your Congressperson or Senator and ask: What are the impacts of this tax bill on me? Let them know that you don’t support a tax bill that will cause the standard of living for graduate students across the country to be negatively affected. Tell them that you want to keep the qualified tuition exemption.
Ready to contact your representatives? SAGE has put together an useful set of resources here, including sample phone scripts and emails: