Action Alert – Contact Congress to Prevent Major Tax Increase on Graduate Students

Please read the urgent request below and contact your Member of Congress regarding a harmful provision in a piece of legislation under consideration by Congress.

The situation: The U.S. House of Representatives is currently considering tax reform legislation, H.R. 1, that would change the way graduate student income is considered and result in large tax increases for many graduate students, including those in the plant sciences.  Specifically, many doctoral students currently receive a tax-free tuition waiver or benefit as part of their graduate package under tax code provision 117(d)(5). If the proposal in H.R. 1 was to be enacted, it would repeal 117(d)(5) and make any waived tuition taxable, thus adding many thousands of dollars to a graduate student’s taxable income.

The House is planning to vote on tax reform this week, but there is still time to express concern and to urge House leadership to remove this harmful provision from their bill.  Every voice matters, and offices are fielding concerns from many different constituents.  Your representatives cannot know about your concerns unless you tell them!

What you can do

  • Call your Member of Congress to let them know your concerns with the bill.  A suggested script and a link for contact information are below.
  • Tweet your Member of Congress with your concerns.
  • Share this information with colleagues and friends and urge them to take action as well.

For all actions please remember to be polite – staffers are working hard to field many calls.

Sample Call Script

[introduce yourself and your role at your institution, for example: Hi, I’m Jane and I’m a graduate student in plant biology at XXXX University]. I am very concerned about a provision in the tax reform proposal that would repeal section 117(d)(5).  I/my students rely on this provision to make graduate education affordable.  If enacted, graduate education would be out of reach for many students who would face unaffordable new tax liabilities.  This change would also harm our future STEM workforce and thus hamper U.S. competitiveness. I hope you will support a strong U.S. STEM workforce and research in the plant sciences and the entire innovation ecosystem by voting against this harmful provision.

Sample Tweet

“Grad student tuition waivers should not be considered taxable income.  Doing so would discourage talented students from pursuing graduate education and undermine the U.S. scientific enterprise #ASPB #NoTuitionWaiverTax”

Contact Information

You can find your Member of Congress and contact information at

Thank you very much for your time and attention,

Crispin Taylor
Chief Executive Officer


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