Tuesday, January 21, 2020
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#GradTaxWalkout planned for noon today

At noon Central Time (1 PM EST/10 AM PST), graduate students are expected to conduct a nationwide rally to protest the Republican tax reform proposal passed in the House as H.R. 1 on November 16, which would count the tuition waivers they receive from their universities as taxable income, a group of grad students announced via Facebook.

We are distressed about the impact the proposed tax bill will have on all graduate students throughout the country. Specifically, graduate students given tuition tax waivers.

We are organizing a nationwide walkout (#gradtaxwalkout) on Wednesday November 29th at 1:00pm EST/10am PST to show how vital graduate students are to higher education. For example, in return for our stipends, clinical psych graduate students provide FREE psychological services to veterans at the VA. Graduate students teach your undergraduate classes, we grade your papers, we keep the education-loop going. How does YOUR FIELD contribute to society? Tell people why they should care about this tax reform.

We are the future of research, innovation and technology. We are also vital for the structure and function of higher education in the United States. Without us, universities wouldn’t have enough instructors for their college courses. Join us in this national walkout to show just how important graduate students are to science, higher education, public policy, and healthcare.

The tax proposal that is under consideration in the Senate would leave the tuition waivers graduate students receive for their work tax-free, which seems fairer than the plan that passed in the House, since graduate students never actually see any of this money though they benefit from it. However, if the Senate passes a bill that differs from H.R. 1, any differences will have to be negotiated by a conference committee, leaving both chambers a simple yes/no vote after the conference. That’s where the real wheeling and dealing is expected to start.

An objective analysis of H.R. 1, provided by the New York Times, shows that many more middle class Americans will see the tax they pay to the federal government reduced under H.R. 1 than will see it increased. It’s a difficult analysis, the paper points out, since there is no “typical” or “average” American household or taxpayer.

For example, people who itemize deductions, which is about one-fourth of the “middle class,” will see a tax increase because of the elimination of the personal exemption. But for three-fourths of middle class income tax filers, the change will be good, since the standard deduction was increased substantially under H.R. 1.

It is quite an impossible task to figure out how the changes will affect any specific individual, though, since everybody’s personal income tax situation is unique.

But grad students, who essentially keep institutions of higher education operating in this nation, will mostly see a tax increase, sometimes of as much as a few thousand dollars. The tax increase on grad students can be expected to make it financially impossible for them to complete their work, in many cases, further dividing America along class lines, in the future.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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