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Casey DreierDecember 14, 2017

Congress rejects graduate student tax

Compromise legislation will not tax graduate student tuition waivers

After weeks of negotiations between the House and Senate, it appears that the final version of the Republican party’s $1.5 trillion tax plan will not contain a provision to increase taxes on graduate students.

The Planetary Society joined dozens of other scientific organizations in calling for Congress to reject this tax provision.

The House of Representatives had earlier passed legislation which (among many other things) would have reclassified tuition waivers received by graduate studies as taxable income. Depending on the cost of tuition at their institution, graduate students across the country could have seen their tax bills increase by as much as 240%. Most graduate students receive stipends of less $30,000 per year, which is already considered taxable income.

The Senate version of tax cut legislation did not contain this provision.

The impact of this provision to the U.S. science workforce—particularly space sciences—would have been highly negative. It would have discouraged vast numbers of students from pursuing critical academic studies in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, all of which are necessary for the United States to remain competitive on the global stage. It also would have disproportionately affected first-generation graduate students and those with lesser financial means from pursuing advanced studies. No country can afford let its intellectual capital lay fallow, we must work to engage as many students as possible into these fields required by advanced industry, scientific, and national defense areas.

In addition to joining 67 other scientific societies and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in calling for congress to reject this provision, The Planetary Society made a number of visits to key Republican Senate offices to discourage them from pursuing this tax provision in their compromise legislation with the House. We found these meetings to be productive, with a strong dialogue and open exchange of ideas. It was another example of how space (or the cosmic perspective, perhaps?) can still bring people together in a bipartisan fashion.

Today we join the AAAS and others in thanking the bipartisan members of Congress who helped remove this provision and for supporting the hard-working students who will be our future science and exploration leaders.

Read more: Planetary Society Political Advocacy

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Casey Dreier

Chief Advocate & Senior Space Policy Adviser for The Planetary Society
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