The U.S. research community experienced both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat in lobbying congressional Republicans as they wrapped up a major overhaul of the nation’s tax code.
Research advocates persuaded lawmakers to drop changes that would have eliminated a valuable tax break for companies that invest in research, forced graduate students to pay taxes on tuition assistance, and reduced incentives for investing in renewable energy technologies. But scientific, academic, and other groups failed to kill several other provisions, notably, a reduction in a tax break designed to encourage companies to develop drugs for rare diseases, the opening of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling, and a new tax on the largest university endowments.
The release yesterday of the final version of the Republican-backed bill marks the end of a fierce but remarkably brief battle over the biggest rewrite of the U.S. tax code in decades. Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate passed versions of the tax bill in the past month that had been drafted largely out of public view. No Democrats or Independent lawmakers voted for either bill. The campaign by science advocates included plenty of backroom maneuvering and some very public drama, including the Capitol Hill arrests of science graduate students who demonstrated against a plan to tax tuition waivers.