Tax Bill

23 petitions

Update posted 11 hours ago

Petition to Patricia J. Gumport

Demand that Stanford Protect Graduate Education

On Thursday, November 2, 2017, the House of Representatives introduced the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The Act introduces a number of changes that may affect graduate students, including treating tuition as taxable income, and eliminating or reducing deductions for student loans and other tuition scholarships. It also directly affects Stanford and other universities by taxing university endowments.  These changes threaten to make graduate education unaffordable. By counting tuition waivers as income, the new bill will tax the average Stanford graduate student on over $45,000 dollars of extra “income” per year. As a result, we will be taxed at a higher rate – preliminary estimates suggest that taxes can increase anywhere from 200% to 400%, depending on our specific funding packages. Graduate programs at Stanford remit many students’ tuition costs in exchange for wages as teaching assistants (TA) or research assistants (RA), along with a modest stipend. While this stipend reaches us, the tuition fees do not: they are transferred from the University to our respective Departments. In effect, the University transfers this money from one pocket to another. Under the new tax proposal, graduate students stand to be taxed for “income” that never reaches them. This bill can affect graduates students regardless of citizenship status; as long as a student pays taxes to the US government, they will be impacted. This bill will affect anyone with student loans by eliminating student loan interest deductions (currently at $2,500/yr). Moreover, while the Senate version of the bill would not affect graduate student tuition or student loan deductions, it would tax the University’s endowment. We fully expect these provisions to have long-term adverse effects on the University community as a whole. Patricia J. Gumport, the Vice Provost for Graduate Education, notified students in an email on November 8 that the “tax proposal has the highest priority attention from Stanford’s leaders and we are advocating actively against these provisions.” While we appreciate the University's statement, it does not provide any concrete information about how exactly students may be affected by the proposed changes, what Stanford is doing to protect graduate students, or how the University will respond if the proposed changes are passed. As students, teachers, and researchers, graduate students need more information about how their jobs and livelihoods may be affected, as well as an active voice in discussions that may affect our ability to contribute to the University. We therefore call upon the University to: Provide concrete information on (a) how graduate students on various financial packages may be affected by the proposed changes, with specific estimates and figures; and (b) what actions Stanford is taking to ensure that the tuition tax exemption and student loan interest deduction are preserved. We also want to know what specifically Stanford is doing in partnership with the peer universities and higher education associations that Vice Provost Gumport named in her recent email.  Explain how Stanford will protect graduate students’ take-home pay if the tax deduction is eliminated. Specifically, we want Stanford to guarantee that it will adjust either our tuition or our financial packages to offset any changes in our federal taxes.  Hold a Town Hall meeting for graduate students with President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Vice Provost Gumport, and all other relevant personnel to discuss the tax plan and its implications for graduate students, as well as the continued financial viability of graduate education at Stanford. We, the undersigned, ask the University to respond to these demands by December 1, 2017. Congress plans to vote on a tax reform bill as early as Thanksgiving. We hope that the University will collaborate with us on this pressing issue and continue to fulfill its responsibilities to the graduate community. [Note: Please include your department, affiliation, and year of graduation (actual or anticipated) when you sign. For example: Jane Nguyen, PhD, English, 2018.] 

Stanford Solidarity Network
3,204 supporters
Update posted 2 weeks ago

Petition to Arizona Senator Jeff Flake

Senator Flake, Please Vote No on Tax Plan

Dear Senator Flake: Your political beliefs do not line up with those of all your constituents. Many of us disagree with your votes far more often than we agree. But we all respect you. We’ve always felt your votes, and your words, reflected your principles, not the dictate of some donor or a cynical political calculation. So we’re not surprised to read that you are taking a hard look at the Senate tax bill and have concerns about its fiscal impact. We salute you for doing so. As you consider your vote, we urge you to consider what the real cost of this tax plan will be. The sticker price, $1.5 trillion, is huge, but undoubtedly is a gross understatement. Here are a few of the areas you might want to explore on that front: Will the provisions set to expire after 2025 really expire? If not, what will be the additional cost? What will be the indirect revenue loss from various provisions that has not been fully accounted for in the revenue estimates? For example, the doubling of the estate tax exemption will indirectly cost tens of billions in income tax revenue, but that indirect loss cannot be estimated in a manner that is even remotely accurate. What will be the cost after 2027? The Wharton School estimates that the tax plan will cost an additional $3 trillion in the decade beginning in 2028. What will be the additional revenue loss when clever professionals develop ways to game the new rules, such as the ones that confer a discounted tax rate on so-called business income? Some of us are tax professionals. If our highest priority were to maximize our own incomes from tax planning work, we wouldn’t be opposed to this tax plan; we’d be anxiously awaiting its passage. Senator, when it’s all added up, this tax plan will cost much more than $1.5 trillion. We can’t afford it. We also hope you’ll consider some other unfavorable aspects of the Senate bill. For example, the charitable world opposes both the Senate and House bills because of their impact on charitable giving. As we’re sure you’re aware, members of the LDS church who make outsized donations to the church’s work will fare worse, in some cases far worse, than others in their same income bracket because of the manner in which charitable contributions are devalued under the Senate bill. The various charities providing services to veterans and their families play a critical role today, in some cases performing functions that should be within the government’s sphere. Do we really want to hamstring their fundraising efforts? Senator, please also consider how the Senate bill favors wealth over work. Some of us remember that before 1980, wages and salaries were taxed at a rate more favorable than that applied to all other types of income except capital gains. That, to us, reflected values we’d want our society to have. Over the decades, we’ve moved away from those values in our tax system. If the Senate plan were to become law, we will have reversed entirely our priorities of 40 years ago, as wages and salaries will be subject to income tax rates higher than every type of income stream that flows to wealth. In this regard, it’s really not about the bottom and the top. Even at the top, the Senate tax plan provides tax breaks for wealth on the backs of those who work. For example, a highly paid surgeon, after forgoing the opportunity to earn substantial income while going through medical school and a residency, and spending several hundred thousand dollars in tuition and other costs, would be taxed more heavily than someone receiving the same income from ownership in a family business. Not only is that unfair, Senator, it skews our incentives in the wrong direction. If someone has the talent and the drive to become a great surgeon, what sort of society would create tax incentives that steer him down a different path? In closing, we say this: You know that the impact this tax plan could have on our long-term economic security is far more important than any political consideration. If your vote should become “the vote,” and the pressure on you becomes intense, please don’t lose sight of that. It won’t be easy. Thanks for the work you’ve done over the years representing Arizona.

Robert Lord
439 supporters