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The Committee on College Life (CCL) voted unanimously yesterday morning to recommend the repeal of a newly-imposed Faculty of Arts and Sciences tax on donations to the Harvard Gift Fund.
Money given to the tax-deductible gift fund generally comes from alumni and passes to designated student groups. While the tax was set at five percent this year, it will increase to 15 percent within the next three years. The Undergraduate Council (UC) estimates that the tax will add nearly $20,000 to the coffers of FAS, which faces a projected $75 million operating deficit by 2010.
“The reason for the tax is that FAS wants more money,” said Ryan A. Petersen ’08, chair of the UC’s Student Advisory Committee and a student member of the CCL, a joint advisory committee of administrators, faculty, and students.
The UC also voted unanimously earlier this month to repeal the gift tax. UC members argued that the tax unfairly took money out of the hands of student groups.
“The student group tax unfairly discriminates newer student groups who haven’t had the privilege to establish endowments,” said Petersen, who sponsored the bill in the council.
Now that the CCL has approved the recommendation, the proposal will be passed along to Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71, according to Associate Dean of College Judith H. Kidd.
While Gross can lobby FAS to pick up the cost of the tax, Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles has so far declined to intervene, even after meeting with student group leaders.
“Overall, [Knowles] did not seem immediately willing to repeal the tax,” said Petersen, who met with Knowles earlier this month.
But Kidd expressed optimism that the tax would be repealed.
“The CCL does not make many recommendations to the dean [of the Faculty] for further action, so these are significant, wrote Kidd in an e-mail. “I hope that this expression of concern about the imposition of the Gift Tax on student organizations will warrant close attention by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.”
If FAS does not repeal the tax, however, the College could decide to pick up the tab by paying the tax on behalf of students.
Gross could not be reached for comment yesterday.
—Staff writer Alexander D. Blankfein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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