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AAU Weekly Wrap-up

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 June 10, 2016

CONTENTS
 

 

BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS & TAX ISSUES

BIPARTISAN SENATE LABOR-HHS-ED BILL WOULD FUND YEAR-ROUND PELL, BOOST NIH

The Senate Appropriations Committee on June 9 approved its FY17 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (S. 3040) with a restoration of the year-round Pell Grant and a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Some of the increased funding was made possible by redirecting funds from the estimated $7.8 billion Pell Grant surplus.

The House Appropriations Committee has not set a date for introduction or consideration of the companion funding bill.

The Senate measure would fund NIH at $34.1 billion, a $2 billion, or 6.2 percent, increase above the FY16 enacted level. Added funding would be targeted to such areas as Alzheimer’s disease research, the Precision Medicine Initiative, the BRAIN Initiative, and antibiotic resistant bacteria research.

The bill restores eligibility for year-round Pell Grants for low-income college students, benefiting as many as one million students, and raises the maximum Pell Grant award from $5,815 to $5,935. Funding for TRIO, GEAR Up, Federal Work-Study, and Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need would remain at their FY16 levels.

AAU’s FY17 Funding Priorities Table has been updated.

Following approval of the bill in subcommittee on June 7, AAU issued a statement expressing strong support for the restoration of the year-round Pell Grant and the funding increase for NIH. The statement said, “These investments reflect a bipartisan commitment to college access and the nation’s investment in finding cures and extending lives through biomedical research.”

AAU also used social media to thank leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee—SenatorsRoy Blunt (R-MO),Patty Murray (D-WA),Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), andThad Cochran (R-MS)—for their support ofNIH and year-round Pell Grants.


 OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES

SENATE APPROVES DURBIN AMENDMENT TO SUSTAIN DEFENSE MEDICAL RESEARCH FUNDING

The Senate on June 7 approved an amendment offered by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) to S. 2943, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), to protect medical research supported by the Department of Defense (DOD). The vote was 66 to 32.

The amendment stripped language from the bill that would have limited congressionally directed medical research funded by DOD to those areas the Secretary of Defense determined were directly relevant to the military.

AAU used social media to express support for the amendment and thank Senator Durbin for his leadership on the issue.

AAU joined 136 other national organizations, medical associations, universities, and academic medical centers in sending a letter on June 1 to leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee opposing the funding restrictions on medical research.


 EXECUTIVE BRANCH

IRS ADDRESSES PROBLEMS WITH INTERNATIONAL STUDENT TAX REFUNDS

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on June 6 posted a statement on its website announcing the steps it will take to assist foreign students and scholars in the U.S. who received notices from the agency denying them tax refunds for taxes withheld for the 2014 tax year and, in some cases, assessing them additional tax bills.

According to the statement, the IRS is working to issue refunds to those whose withholding credits were denied (with interest, in instances where the IRS exceeded the 180-day period for processing such refunds) and to eliminate any balances due. In addition, the IRS will refrain from holding back any additional refunds until it has redesigned its compliance processes aimed at detecting fraudulent or otherwise questionable returns and refunds.

The IRS considers grant aid in excess of tuition and mandatory fees to be taxable income, so institutions of higher education are required to withhold 14 percent of the excess in taxes for foreign students and to pay the withheld amounts directly to the IRS. This withholding is reported to students via Form 1042-S, and students can request a refund of any overpayment of taxes when they file their tax returns.

In response to a barrage of complaints from affected individuals, institutions, and members of Congress, the IRS conducted a review that identified several problems with its verification and compliance processing systems, which it plans to fix. The IRS initially blamed the errors on the tax software used by higher education institutions, but its statement acknowledged that any such software errors were minor and not the root cause of the problem.
 

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