GSG pens letter against tax bill

The Graduate Student Government sent a letter to the United States Congress on Wednesday expressing graduate students’ concerns about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the latest Republican-sponsored bill proposed to modify the existing tax code.

The letter, which garnered more than 450 signatures, was a direct response to several provisions in the proposed bill, including one that would repeal the graduate and professional students’ tax-free tuition income. Instead, the stipend students receive from working at universities would be taxed as regular income — creating a situation where students can “barely survive on their stipends,” the letter stated.

“We stand together and urge your opposition to the provisions in this bill that impact members of the higher education community,” GSG said in the statement, which was obtained by the Daily Trojan. “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has many provisions that not only adversely impact universities, but graduate and doctoral students specifically.”

The letter addressed House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.

GSG also coordinated phone banking efforts on Wednesday to congressional representatives to voice its opposition to the bill.

There were key provisions up for repeal in the bill, the letter noted, that GSG felt would adversely impact USC and its students.

“[The bill] will also make it difficult for universities to recruit graduate-professional students,” the letter said. “Ultimately, this hinders the progress of research and innovation at our institutions of higher learning.”

Undergraduate and graduate students can also currently receive up to $5,250 in tax-free income from an employer that can be applied to educational funding. The proposed policy will repeal that provision, which GSG argues will limit the educational and professional growth of employees and students.

The letter also expressed concerns about other provisions being considered for repeal, such as the student loan interest deduction and Hope Scholarship Tax Credit, and the creation of a tax on universities’ endowments.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on its version of the bill this week, according to POLITICO. The Senate, which created its own tax plan, elected to keep tax-free tuition income.

GSG did not respond to multiple requests for comment.