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How the Proposed GOP Tax Bill Affects Students

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For several weeks, Republicans in Congress have been working on an ambitious plan to overhaul the American tax system, an act that would affect a large number of people and corporations. This tax reform proposal is led by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who is working under the blessing of President Trump.

To some, this dramatic proposal by Trump and the Republicans is a desperate attempt to score a major legislative victory after their dramatic failure on healthcare reform, as well as the recent Democratic sweeps in elections in Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Georgia, and Washington. To others, it is an attempt to fix the nation’s tax code. Along with overhauling the tax code for individuals and businesses, the Republican plan would also change a number of things in regards to higher education for students and universities.

Perhaps the most significant new proposal put forth by Republicans is to levy an excise tax of 1.4% on universities with over 500 students and over $100,000 of endowment per student. Proponents of this tax claim it will force universities to spend more money on students and student benefits, however opponents see it as a veiled attack on higher education with little real benefit. As it currently stands, SLU would qualify for this tax, but the specifics of what sort of income or assets would be taxed is not yet exactly clear.

In addition to the excise tax, the House’s proposed tax plan would also change the way that graduate students pay for their education. In exchange for helping teach courses, conducting research, and working for a university, graduate students are often offered benefits. These can vary from stipends to waivers which can be used to pay for a portion of the student’s tuition. Under the proposed plan, these incentives would be now be considered taxable income, meaning that graduate students would be paying higher taxes on money that they don’t actually have. This could eventually lead to fewer people pursuing graduate programs, and thus hurting universities. In the long run, the small amount of money gained by taxing graduate students could damage the country’s workforce. Fewer people obtaining a graduate degree results in less-specialized workers, which can harm the economy.

Another major portion of the tax plan would “streamline” the existing tax credits for students struggling with the cost of education. This includes repealing the Lifetime Learning Credit and Hope Scholarship Credit. Both of these are intended pay for the cost of education for both graduate students and adults who want to go back to school. However, while the proposed tax plan does expand the American Opportunity Tax Credit to five years instead of four, the fifth year only accounts for half of the original amount received. More significantly, the GOP plan would eliminate the Student Loan Interest Deduction, which allows students to deduct the interest of their student loans from their tax bill each year. In 2015, 12.4 million people used this deduction. The plan also eliminates separate deductions for students with high tuition and for teachers who have to buy supplies for their classrooms.

From the perspective of a student, the outlook can be grim. The proposed tax plan would result in a higher tax bill for graduate students, higher interest payments for all students with loans, and less money allocated in our society for higher education and ensuring that as many people as possible have access to it.

The argument that politicians supporting the tax plan make when pressed is that the tradeoff is a lower tax rate overall for individuals, in addition to the expansion of other credits not related to education, such as the child tax credit. However, many of these positive benefits are set to phase out after ten years, right when current students will be needing them, while the cuts to corporate taxes and the estate tax are set to phase in over time. In addition, the corporate tax rate would be lowered to 20 percent from the current 35 percent along with eliminating most business deductions and credits.

Part of the reason that the proposed tax reform bill cannot add to any debt after ten years is because Republicans want to pass their tax reform bill without any Democratic votes using a Senate process called “reconciliation”. So, to avoid this rule, many parts of the bill would not come into full effect until after ten years. This has angered people who oppose the proposed tax reform, who claim that the proposal is a political move focused around maximizing the cuts to the corporate tax rate without making any compromises with Democrats or Independents in Congress.

Because of the effects that this proposed tax plan can have on students, it is important to pay attention to it and call your local representatives about how this plan can affect you.

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How the Proposed GOP Tax Bill Affects Students