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College To Refund Gift Tax

By Alexandra Hiatt, Contributing Writer

Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 announced yesterday that the College has agreed to refund any student group that is taxed on donations received through Harvard gift accounts.

“Although it would be improper for [Faculty of Arts and Sciences] FAS to selectively repeal the tax, I have decided that the College will reimburse student groups for this assessment,” Gross wrote in an e-mail.

Ryan A. Petersen ’08, who announced the decision at last night’s Undergraduate Council meeting, emphasized that the FAS has not agreed to repeal the tax.

“I think it is great that we are finally getting some traction on it, but I don’t think it is the end,” said Petersen. “We need to be sure that the FAS dean and the President of the college all realize that discrimination that would be done to undergraduates in our diverse community by the tax’s existence.”

This comes days after top administrators cast aside a recommendation by the Committee on College Life (CCL) to repeal the tax on donations to the Harvard Gift Fund.

When asked why the College’s approach to the tax had changed between then and now, Petersen said, “that he was getting pressured from a lot of us talking to him, and this way he can ostensibly say that the tax is still happening.”

UC President John S. Haddock ’07 said that Gross was unclear “about what the timeline would be,” and whether this would be a permanent institution.

Earlier this month, the Undergraduate Council (UC) voted unanimously for the repeal of the tax. The UC has argued that the tax unfairly discriminates against newer student groups who haven’t had the time or financial ability to establish endowments and receive their own tax-exempt status.

Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles said last week that he would not make exceptions to a FAS-wide policy and waive the tax for particular groups or purposes.

All Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) organizations face the University-levied tax on tax-deductible money that student groups receive from donors. The University announced this fall that the tax, which is set at five percent this year, will rise to 15 percent within the next three years.

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