The Senate tax plan keeps tuition waivers as a tax exemption - unlike the plan passed by the House last Thursday.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which the House passed 227 to 205, included a repeal of Section 117(d) which states that a graduate tuition waiver may not be included in taxable income. The move would make tuition waivers part of a student's income, and subject to being taxed.
Following the passage of the tax reform plan in the House, the Senate did their own markup. The plan echoed the House’s version, with a few exceptions including the decision to keep graduate tuition waivers as a tax exemption. In fact, there is no mention of Section 117(d) in the final Senate Finance Committee markup.
The proposal passed in the House tax reform plan has caused fear and outrage amongst college students, even leading some schools to notify their graduate students about how the repeal of Section 117(d) might negatively impact them.
A spokeswoman for the Senate Finance Committee, Julia Lawless, told the Washington Examiner that “there was a strong desire among Senate Finance Committee Republicans to preserve current education incentives in the tax code,” adding that “The Senate bill reflects the will of the committee.”
According to The Washington Post, while the Senate plan removes the tax on graduate tuition waivers, it keeps in place a 1.4 percent excise tax on funds that are contributed towards an endowment, which would only be applicable at universities where the endowment is equal to $250,000 per full-time student. This would impact schools like Harvard.
During President Trump’s presidential campaign, he was very critical of such endowments, citing that they are exempt from taxes.
"What a lot of people don’t know is that universities get massive tax breaks for their massive endowments," Trump said, according to Politico. He would add that "These huge, multi-billion-dollar endowments are tax-free, but too many of these universities don’t use the money to help with the tuition and student debt.”
Adam is a junior studying journalism at Mississippi State University.