US Senate questions tax-exempt status of university endowments

Inside Higher Ed :: Senate Scrutiny for Endowments

As tax-exempt universities expand in Allston and Brighton and our property taxes keep going up, people have been asking if all activities of these huge institutions should be exempt from taxes. Most people seem to agree that classrooms, laboratories, and other space directly related to education should continue to be exempt from taxes, but why should the tax treatment of an apartment building be different because it is owned by Boston University instead of The Hamilton Company?

With the recent news about Harvard's $35 billion endowment and the growth of university endowments across the country, the Senate is asking if it makes sense for these endowments to grow free from taxes (as opposed to the taxes on capital gains that you and I pay on our relatively minuscule savings).

“The taxpayers subsidize university endowments in two ways. One, the taxpayer’s donation to the endowment is tax deductible. Two, the endowment itself isn’t taxed. So big tax breaks make the big endowments possible, and taxpayers at large pay for those tax breaks,” Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa said in a statement.

“Since tax breaks for charitable donations are supposed to contribute to the public good, it’s fair to ask whether the tax breaks that lead to big university endowments are serving the public. That’s especially true when low- and middle-income working families are struggling to pay college tuition.”

Our Senator John Kerry is a member of the Finance Committee. You can email your thoughts on this subject to him using this form on his website.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:50 AM

    I just came across this blog, and I am quite glad I did. I'm actually starting some research for my dissertation that will involve looking at the interactions between universities and their surrounding communities, so this is right up my alley. I didn't see a contact email on the blog, but if the administrator could get in touch with me, that would be much appreciated.

    Max Grinnell
    University of Wisconsin-Madison