Updated Information Regarding Changes in GA Tuition Waiver Taxation
A university-wide email went out this week from University Payroll regarding the rate of taxation on tuition waivers for Graduate Assistants. Rather than the tuition waiver being taxed at a federal rate of 25%, the amount of federal tax for GAs will be based on income plus the amount of the tuition waiver that is over the $5250 level. This is in place for the start of this calendar (tax) year and the university claims that this will reduce the tax burden; Payroll did a test and found an average decrease in tax burden of $140 per pay period, with some students getting a bigger benefit and others a smaller benefit, depending on rate of pay and amount of tuition waived. If you’re a GA, you can change your Form W-4 via NESSIE (https://nessie.uihr.uillinois.edu/cf/comp/index.cfm?Item_id=1056&rlink=674) to adjust your withholding. Also, Monthly- and Bi-weekly Tuition Benefit Net Pay Calculators are available on the OBFS website to assist in determining the effect of the withholding on pay. The calculators are located at http://www.obfs.uillinois.edu/payroll/ on the right hand side of the page. Additionally, the number of students receiving zero paychecks in the Fall should decrease as well, but this has yet to be seen. The university will be setting up town hall meetings at the end of February so that payroll can answer any questions you may have. The GEO will provide more information about time and location as it becomes available.
While this is a step in the right direction, this doesn’t eliminate the possibility of zero dollar paychecks and having such a tax burden based on tuition waivers places unfair financial restraints on many GEO members. With the oncoming contract campaign, the GA taxation issue is something to keep in mind as a possible bargaining platform. Ultimately, if you have any questions or concerns or want to get involved in helping to provide alternatives to such waiver taxation, please don’t hesitate to contact the GEO at 312-733-9641 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email from UIC Payroll
In accordance with the University of Illinois’ Educational Assistance Plan that is in compliance with Internal Revenue Code Section 127, the value of graduate-level educational benefits exceeding $5,250 is subject to employment taxes and must be reported as taxable wages on Form W-2. This taxation does not apply to qualified Teaching Assistants or Research Assistants.
The University must withhold federal and state income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes, if applicable, on taxable tuition waivers, as required by the IRS and other regulatory agencies. Effective January 1, 2012, federal and state income taxes will be withheld at graduated rates on taxable tuition waiver amounts in excess of $5,250. The calculation of the tax withholding will be in accordance with the employee’s current Form W-4 on file with the University Payroll & Benefits (UPB) Office.
Individuals may change their Form W-4 via NESSIE (https://nessie.uihr.uillinois.edu/cf/comp/index.cfm?Item_id=1056&rlink=674) to adjust their withholding. Also, Monthly- and Bi-weekly Tuition Benefit Net Pay Calculators are available to employees on the OBFS website to assist in determining the effect of the withholding on their pay. The calculators are located at http://www.obfs.uillinois.edu/payroll/ on the right hand side of the page.
Due to the change from the supplemental to the graduated tax withholding rates, the following process changes will occur within University Payroll Benefits:
• If a tuition waiver amount needs to be applied outside of regular pay cycle processing due to an employee being in an inactive pay status (i.e., leave of absence or termination), the supplemental withholding rate will be assessed on the transaction.
• All corrections will be processed on the next regularly scheduled tuition waiver assessment period. Any approved exceptions for adjustments outside the normal tuition waiver process will be applied on the next regular payroll cycle.
The change to the graduated rates applies ONLY to tuition waivers. All other taxable benefits will continue to be taxed at the supplemental withholding rate (25% Federal, 5% State, 1.45% Medicare, and 4.2%, pending federal legislation, for Social Security where applicable).
During the Spring of 2012, UPB will conduct overview sessions with more detailed information related to the taxation of tuition waivers. Additional communications will be forthcoming.
Questions regarding the new process can be addressed to UPB Customer Service at email@example.com or by calling one of these offices: UIUC 217-265-6363, UIC 312-996-7200, UIS 217-206-7211.