October 28, 2010

Yo no te(a)ngo dinero

Spanish Club was thrilled to have the opportunity to bring the Eduardo Tami Trio, a group of tango musicians from Argentina, to Knox. After the group arrived, however, the club was in for a surprise of a less pleasing nature.

Senior and Spanish Club co-president Mary Reindl recalls meeting Eduardo and taking him to the Business Office to finalize financial forms so he could be paid.

“They asked him, ‘Do you have a Social Security number?’ No, of course he doesn’t. He’s not a citizen,” she said. “Then they told us they were going to have to withhold 30 percent of his check.”

According to sections 1441 through 1443 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, any income a foreigner receives from a U.S. source will be subject to a 30 percent tax, which is generally withheld directly from their payment. This policy can be avoided by applying through the IRS for a Social Security number, but the Eduardo Tami Trio had never had to do so in the past because no other college where they had performed had followed the policy.

“We contacted the school [they] were at beforehand, and they didn’t withhold because they didn’t know they were supposed to,” senior and Spanish Club co-president Rosie Worthen said. “I guess our Business Office is more on top of things.”

Outside performers who come to Knox are required to submit tax forms to the Business Office two weeks before they arrive on campus. The forms for the tango group, Worthen said, were in ahead of the deadline.

“Eduardo had talked to [Payroll Coordinator] Lisa Steinbach about the forms,” she explained. “The withholding was never mentioned.”

“It’s not fair, considering we’re a student organization and we’re given a budget…and all that responsibility, not to tell us something that important,” Reindl said.

In the end, the Eduardo Tami Trio did not leave Knox unpaid. Dean of Students Debbie Southern provided additional funds to cover the cost of the group, citing the uniqueness of the situation and the lack of time for making decisions.

“[The group] would’ve left without being paid,” Reindl added. “They would’ve had to trust us.”

Still, Spanish Club faces a 150 percent deduction in their budget for winter term if they are unable to pay Southern back. This would make it difficult for the club to remain active.

“Debbie was gracious enough to let us take on that responsibility,” Worthen said. “It would be a shame if we had to be shut down, because we’re a really active club.”

Overall, Spanish Club owes $1,200 to the college. Southern donated an additional $300, and the club was able to use some of its current budget to defray the cost. Reindl also sent out an email to the president of every club on campus that explained the situation and asked for donations.

“A lot of clubs have emailed us back saying they already have really tight budgets,” she said. “German Club is donating $25. That’s very nice of them.”

Reindl’s email also served as a warning about the policy so that Spanish Club’s situation will not be repeated by other clubs.

“In the future, considering clubs have to go to mandatory budget meetings, this needs to be mentioned,” she said.

Spanish Club hopes that the rest of the costs can be covered by funding from Student Senate, which already contributed additional funds to bring the Eduardo Tami Trio to Knox in the first place.

“They’ve been very supportive,” Worthen said. “It shouldn’t really be an issue.”

Though the past few weeks have been stressful, Spanish Club remains optimistic.

“It was a good learning experience, the events were successful, and the artists thoroughly enjoyed themselves,” Worthen said. “That’s what matters.”

Anna Meier

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