Tax Reform Plans Could Lead to Major Disruption for Colleges and Universities
Congressional Republicans are working quickly in an effort to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), which contains numerous concerning provisions for higher education students, employees, and institutions.
Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee approved comprehensive tax reform legislation in committee with no votes of support from Democrats. The House of Representatives is expected to take the measure to the floor this week, where it is expected to pass, also on a party-line vote.
The Senate Finance Committee introduced its proposals for comprehensive tax reform on Thursday, November 9, without any legislative text. It is not unusual for the Senate Finance Committee to act on conceptual tax language, later translating their work into legislative language before a measure is sent to the Senate floor for a vote.
GOP lawmakers would like to be able to approve a comprehensive tax reform package to send to President Donald Trump for his approval in December.
NACUBO expects action in the coming days and weeks to be swift. Most deliberation and debate will happen (and has been already undertaken) behind the scenes. This means that colleges and universities with concerns about various provisions in the legislation must weigh in now—and continue to do so persistently—until the dust has cleared.
Colleges and Universities Can Make a Difference
1. If you have not already done so, convene your campus president, chief human resources, endowment, enrollment, and advancement officers, tax director, and federal government relations team to assess the impact this legislation could have on your institution and determine how you will respond.
2. Identify your top concerns and consider communications strategies (e.g., an opinion piece for publication in your student, local, or regional newspaper; a visit with the editorial boards of local or national news outlets; a website, blog, or Twitter campaign) for these audiences:
- Your senators and representatives in Congress
- Alumni and trustees
- Other interested communities
Every Senate vote on this bill will make a difference. We particularly urge you to contact your senators and tell them about the provisions that will impact their constituents: your students, your workforce, and your institution.
NACUBO has developed a primer with additional resources, including our recent letters and statements. We also encourage you to use the "Contact Congress" resources made available by the American Council on Education and developed in coordination with NACUBO and a number of other national higher education associations:
We expect major developments to occur regularly in the coming days and weeks and we will continue to update our resources in the most timely and helpful way possible.
The scope of proposed changes to higher education would impact students and their families, the higher education workforce, and the fundamental business operations of colleges and universities. NACUBO encourages institutions to closely examine the proposed significant changes in these areas:
- Student and family education tax benefits
- Financing tax-exempt organizations
- Charitable giving
- Tax-exempt bond financing
- UBIT, excise taxes, and penalties
Institutions are encouraged to act quickly. Pick a few areas to focus on that are of most concern, keep your messaging simple, and focus on how this legislation impacts your students and your educational mission.