By Julia Belluz
If you thought the Republican tax plan was just about huge tax cuts for the wealthy, think again. It’s also a major attack on science.
To understand why, let’s step back a bit. The scientific enterprise in America heavily relies on grad students. They do mostly invisible work in thousands of labs and research institutions across the US, on everything from basic research about human cells to clinical research on how to cure cancer. Their contributions are essential to running studies.
In exchange for that labor during their training, the federal government gives them a break on their taxes.
Very simply, grad students get their tuition and other school fees waived while they’re teaching or researching. When tax season rolls around, they’re exempted from having to pay taxes on that money (which never hits their pockets).
But under the House version of the tax bill, these waivers would become taxable income. “This means that MIT graduate students would be responsible for paying taxes on an $80,000 annual salary, when we actually earn $33,000 a year,” explained one MIT grad student, Erin Rousseau, in an op-ed in the New York Times. “That’s an increase of our tax burden by at least $10,000 annually.”
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