Rules Committee Chairman Pushes to Remove Tax on Tuition Waiver

By Emily Wilkins

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) is leading a push to remove a tax bill provision that would tax graduate students serving as researchers or teaching assistants on tuition waivers or reductions.

Sessions circulated a letter among colleagues Dec. 5 asking tax bill conferees to remove the provision in the bill (H.R. 1).

Sessions said he had spoken with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) about allowing the waivers to remain untaxed and Brady was “most sympathetic to our ideas about this.”

“I anticipate he will be successful,” Sessions added.

Brady also signaled at an event last month at the American Enterprise Institute that there was flexibility on the issue of tuition waivers.

The provision, which appears in the House-passed tax bill but not the Senate-passed version, has raised concerns for graduate students and colleges. On Dec. 5, graduate students protested the provision outside the office of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities sent a letter to lawmakers asking them to not include the language in a final bill.

In the letter, APLU President Peter McPherson said 55 percent of graduate students had adjusted gross incomes of $20,000 of less in the 2011-12 school year. If passed into law, McPherson said, the provision would lead to an “unaffordable increase in taxable income and make the pursuit of a graduate degree much more challenging, if not impossible, for many of these students.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at ewilkins@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bgov.com

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